Political News vs. Infotainment

These days, it seems like even non-political news winds up being political news. Politics is as hard to get away from as the heat in the summertime in the deep south (which, for those of you who live elsewhere, means it’s damned hard to avoid).

I have, however, observed a troubling trend on the news networks of late.

Increasingly, our political scene is dominated less by honest factual reporting, and more by radio and talk show personalities.

These talk show hosts are not, and should never be confused at any time, or in any way with actual journalists, nor are their programs in any way journalistic in nature. They are, in the very best case, “infotainment programs,” and the information they present to their listeners is not carefully researched, objectively reported political news, it is highly slanted, message-and-audience-specific, and filled with the popular talking points of the moment (the particulars being dependent on whatever side of the political landscape that the talk show host hails from).

Too often, and with increasing frequency, the talking points of these highly entertaining, hugely popular infotainment hosts are parroted back by their listeners, and somewhere…somehow, via the magic of the internet and the powerful incantation of “repeat-something-often-enough-and-it-becomes-the-truth,” these talking points supplant, and eventually entirely replace real political news.

I’ve even watched this phenomenon in action during the course of a single afternoon.

Early in the day, a talk show host will make a provocative, “infotainment” statement.

Later in the afternoon, an actual news reporter from the same station will report that “credible sources have stated…” and then re-state the infotainment talking point, but now suddenly…now it is an actual item of political news, and by this incredible mechanism, the talking heads get their message into the mainstream media, and muddy the already murky political waters.

It’s good for them (hey, anything to make a buck, right?), and it’s good for ratings (which are intimately tied together with that first point, of course). But neither of those things make it honest to goodness political news.

I’ll say that again: Just because it’s good for business…just because it’s good for ratings…that still doesn’t make it real political news.

Let’s all do ourselves a favor and try to keep that point in mind. The talking heads might be making a pretty penny from it, but the reality is that their “faux political news” is doing nothing but creating a more divisive landscape for us to operate in, and reduces the political debate to stark choices, when in fact, there’s quite a degree of subtlety and shading to be found.

That, however, does not make for good ratings, and is seldom talked about.

Please, please, please try and remember though. If you’re getting your talking points from one of the popular “talking heads” on the airwaves, then the points you’re spewing out have nothing whatsoever to do with real political news.

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