I watch more than my share of television news because that's my business and, even if it were not, I think somehow we have a passing responsibility to stay informed. Without information, we're prone to make poor decisions. Without information, we're left to guess at solutions instead of thinking them through.
But television news is changing. And not for the better.
The column you are now reading is an opinion. I make no bones about it. These are my opinions and they are not to be confused with the actual news of the day. News should be about facts and opinions should be about how someone interprets those facts.
But increasingly, network news especially is blurring that line between facts and opinions. It's obvious to everyone. And it should be disturbing.
Last night I watched one of the endless stream of television talking heads and I was stunned - which is pretty hard to do - on just how slanted the reporting had become. This particular talking head was running down a list of Bush administration "failures" with such joy that he didn't even pretend he was reporting news. He was clearly giving his opinion cloaked in a news program.
There was a time not too long ago that you could pay attention and read between the lines of news programs and see how the report was slanted. But today there is no reading between the lines. There are simply no lines.
And because of this, the American public has lost all faith in the national news media. Virtually every national poll shows that national network news is held in low regard by an overwhelming majority of Americans. We can no longer believe these national programs are impartial. They have lost all pretense of impartiality. And, as a result, they have lost their audience, their respect and their power.
The latest example was the Republican presidential debate on CNN a couple of weeks ago when You Tube "plants" were permitted to ask questions that were clearly coming from the Democratic candidates' staffers. CNN pretended they knew nothing about the "plants" but their alibi was bogus and shallow. The result was that even more Americans came to realize that you can't trust nor believe much of what is packaged as news on the networks anymore.
With an election year just around the corner, the stakes will be increased. And the "reporting" will become even more slanted and tilted toward the opinions of those running the show.
One of the first signs of decay in society is when the people can no longer trust those who are pledged to provide us with honest and accurate information. Without that foundation, we lose trust in all aspects of society. The resulting breakdown will not be pretty. It will cost us dearly.
If you go way back to the days of Walter Cronkite - and that's a stretch - the American public held our national media in high regard. And we did so because we had faith they were telling us the truth. Those days are long gone. And as a society, we suffer from this lost innocence.