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Cable news fails to deliver

September 10th, 2009

There has been a great deal of speculation as to where the healthcare debate is going in this country. Some say President Obama is losing ground and others say Congress can’t come together to agree on any kind of meaningful bill, but that isn’t the part of this debate that’s bothering me the most. 

The thing that bothers me the most, and may actually shape the way that I obtain my news for the rest of my life, is cable news.

From what I’ve seen this summer I have come to hold such contempt for every commentator I’ve ever heard—they aren’t playing a serious role in this very serious debate, and I think it’s tragic.

While I admit I favor reform, and my ideological views fall more with MSNBC than with FOX, I cannot watch any of it anymore—except Glenn Beck, he’s hilariously insane.

The problem is that these “pundits” are not doing their jobs: a pundit is supposed to provide insight. We turn to these people on cable news because of their experience and knowledge, which should be how they get their particular gig, but they are behaving more like actors than analyzers. 

For example, this particular column was written on Monday night as we go to print on Tuesday night, but I can already tell you what the commentators will say after President Obama’s address to the joint session of Congress on Wednesday night.

Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow will say he is bringing about the aggressive change that he promised and the American people mandated and Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity will say that he has a hopelessly liberal agenda which will, in the end, bring ruin to this country. Add hyperbole as you will to both of those statements.

Now I’m 22-years-old, and have very limited political experience, and yet I can rattle off the talking points for both sides—and in case any show is interested in signing a new commentator, I think I can do just as well for less than half the money the cable companies are currently paying their pundits.

The Pew Research Center for the People and Press have suggested that in our demographic, adults aging from 18-25, 13 percent of us watch “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” for news, while 10 percent watch “The Big Three” news sources—ABC, CBS or NBC—and after seeing what I’ve seen this summer, it’s not hard to imagine why. 

Stewart, while at times ridiculous, always calls it like he sees it, no matter what party the politician is from, and understands that there is a real debate that should happen. 

It’s problematic that while Congress and the President attempt to reform 18 percent of the United States’ economy the right questions and valued analysis isn’t being put forth, but instead stories about people screaming in town hall meetings or standing outside with guns, are what’s making headlines.

Pundits have a great responsibility to a functional democracy. If no meaningful reform occurs, whatever that may mean, I’m looking to them more than anyone else as the people who truly failed this country.