The flawed approach to modern network coverage
Gabriela Macias | Staff Writer
A lot has been said about the role mass media played in the 2016 election, especially when considering major cable news networks. One of these is CNN, which heavily covered the campaigns and their aftermath.
One of the recurring themes in CNN shows is the use of political pundits. To be clear, the definition of “pundit,” according to Merriam-Webster, is a person who gives opinions in an authoritative manner, usually through the mass media.
At first glance, this might seem totally inoffensive, as there is absolutely nothing wrong with people sharing their opinions. But this has taken a completely new turn with paid pundits defending irrational and misleading statements on national TV. This often turns into hour-long segments of in-fighting between commentators and serious journalists trying to get a point across.
But although this might seem surprising, it shouldn’t be. In a New York Times interview to CNN Worldwide president Jeff Zucker, we see an insight on how news shows have turned into a very disruptive version of reality TV. Zucker comes from being an executive producer on NBC’s “Today” and later, the entire network. As well, he produced actual reality TV shows, such as “Fear Factor” and “The Apprentice.” Of course, the latter elevated its lead developer into the forefront, President Donald Trump.
So you could say Zucker understood Trump better than anyone. After all, he was the one who made Trump famous. But the most worrying sign is how Zucker views the news and the role it should play in the mass media. In the interview, he said, “The idea that politics is a sport is undeniable, and we understood that and approach it that way.” Not only is this horrifying, it gives into the narrative that news should be made for entertainment.
The networks thrive on conflict and drama. This is exactly why pundits have become so coercive. During the campaign, Trump surrogates and pundits were paid by either the campaign or network, sometimes both. Simply to go on air and defend him. But these appearances would often turn into screaming matches with little substance in the end.
The frequency of outrageous things said on air are not only offensive, they are an insult to intellect and good journalism. Modern news pits journalists against each other, to ask ridiculous questions to people they know will say something even more ridiculous. This gets in the way of actually informing the public. It gets in the way of quality time when real, pressing issues facing the nation should be properly discussed, and a way which only serves the network and fails to enrich the knowledge of its audience.
Zucker referred to pundits as “characters in a drama,” but they are not. The spread of misinformation makes the networks lose credibility and it takes the whole essence of the Fourth Estate away. The role of news networks shouldn’t be to play to whatever tune the administration wants to. It is about keeping people accountable.
News shows shouldn’t be modeled after “The Bachelor” or “The Kardashians.” Contrary to what Zucker may think, journalists have a duty to serve and fight for the people, which is something no one should ever forget.
Featured Illustration: Antonio Mercado
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