Friday, April 02, 2004

Smears for Fears

In his column today, Paul Krugman relates the 3 way battle between Letterman, the White House, and CNN, over a bit Letterman did showing a kid yawning during a Bush speech.

The thrust of the piece is that bad news anchors and commentators aren't doing their homework when they release unnamed, unconfirmed bits of smear leaked to them by administration officials.

Well, with 24 hours to fill, what else are you going to do?

Makes me think of the "News Calculus" card passed out by the Daily Show folks during their New Hampshire town hall.

A particularly useful section, entitled "Speculation Caveats" should be emailed to all on-air personalities and producers at Fox, CNN, and hell, even MSNBC:

With 24 hours to fill, tha majority of your screen time will be idle speculation, use these handy disclosures to avoid charges of irresponsibility:

"I hate to speculate, but . . . ."
"I certainly don't have anything to back this up, but . . . ."
"I know what I'm about to say is irresponsible and goes against everything I've been taught as a journalist, but . . . ."
"Just for shits and giggles, let's say . . . ."

We've done a great job, if you think about, turning current American political culture into the great playground of life. Think about it - how much time was spent in grade school making friends? You share toys, swap desserts, share fritos. But all it takes is one comment ("She's dorky" "he smells" "he's stupid"), and all that sublime effort is turned under and never again to live down the nickname "lil'mister picks his nose and chases girls" or whatever. Same goes with television journalism. What once took some amount of deliberation and consideration now just comes out as soon as it pops into someone's head.

There's no summer break coming to give you time to regroup or make new friends. The damage is out, the playground stands divided, and there's no monkey bars high enough to rise above the mess.

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