Follow the Leader

Over the weekend, MSNBC president, Phil Griffin, said in an interview that he hoped his network would emulate the Fox News Channel, not only in its ratings successes but in its approach to the “news”.

This is terrible, not only because it means MSNBC will follow the path of least relevance, but because it continues a long and disheartening trend of the news becoming info-tainment, and not really news at all.

I think (hope?) that Griffin is mistaken and that he’s severely miscalculating his audience’s reaction to this trend.

I may only be speaking for myself here, and not the left-leaning population in general, but my problem with Fox News isn’t that I’d be hearing conservative viewpoints when I watch it.  The problem I have with Fox News is that it isn’t fact-based.  It’s screaming, ranting piles of psychotic bullshit from Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, and Glenn Beck with guest appearances like Sarah Palin.  They have one purpose and that’s to advance an agenda.  It is not to inform, because information is quite literally in opposition to their agenda.

They’re no different than McDonald’s food.  They’ll pump it full of whatever their audience wants.  Oh, it’s not real meat?  Well, they’re eating it so it must be!  Obama’s an American citizen?  Our audience doesn’t want him to be.  Let’s figure out how we can make them think he’s from Kenya.  We won’t say, “Obama is from Kenya”.  We’ll say, “Is Obama from Kenya?  People are asking this question and we’ll have two idiots come scream about it!”

That said, I don’t appreciate being lied to or manipulated from either viewpoint.  Just because Keith Olbermann is on my side of the health care debate doesn’t mean I need the truth stretched to it’s outer limits.  His ratings have dropped dramatically, and I would theorize that it’s for this exact reason.  While he’s not insane like Glenn Beck, he has gotten to the point where most of his act is completely over the top.  And I guess we now know the reason.  It’s what the network wants!  I used to be an avid viewer, now I can barely stand watching anything on that network other than Chris Matthews.

If I turn on the news, I want to get a whole bunch of information quickly.  I don’t want to come out dumber in an hour than I am now.  Listening to people spew slanted rants from either side of the spectrum isn’t helping anyone.  The whole Tea Party movement was basically started by Fox News.  Now it’s a political party that actually influences the way the media has to cover politics.  That’s a sham and a shame.

And they don’t care who they’re appealing to.  They’ve gotten to the point where they’ve abdicated all of their responsibility as the nation’s 4th Branch of Government and are more or less just used car salesman who will tell you whatever you want to hear as long as you keep buying their products.  They’re just as happy to sell their product to an anti-government, racist militia member or an Evangelical “God hates fags” Christian as they are to inform a Wall Street Conservative who just really doesn’t want his investments taxed.

In both parties there are people to the extremes.  It’s not the media’s job to cater to those people.  It’s the media’s job to inform society.  If they were doing their job, there would be less of those extremists to cater to.  MSNBC, by deciding to go the way of Fox News, is choosing to further alienate the huge segment of their audience that cares more about facts than having the crust cut off their bread, so to speak.  Keith Olbermann and Ed Schultz aren’t that much better than Beck, O’Reilly, and Hannity.  They’ve been able to stop short of flat out lying about things – that helps.  Their audience also isn’t likely to go bomb a federal building.  But aside from that, they’re not doing much more to advance the cause than Fox is.

So where to turn?  There’s nowhere anymore, really.  CNN is too busy reading people’s tweets and figuring out how to make the news 3-D.