Earlier this week Jonathan Brown sent me a link to a recent blog post by HBO talk show host Bill Maher. Maher is an unapologetic liberal commentator. But that’s neither here nor there for the moment.
In the blog post I’ve linked you to, Maher describes attending the White House Correspondents’ Dinner earlier this month, during which the presenters dissed most of the major media outlets for “gettting it wrong” in recent weeks, particularly in their coverage of the Boston Marathon bombing.
But Maher points out that one news program stands out–time and again–as a bona fide purveyor of journalism vs. sensationalism: PBS’s Newshour. He goes on to talk about our ailing fourth estate:
Back in the day, the network news broadcasts weren’t designed to make money. They were a loss leader. Because people understood the difference between news and entertainment: one was something you needed to eat, and the other was dessert.
But then capitalism took over the news business. And since then, the news has gone down…
Hey, don’t get me wrong — capitalism is a great thing. When it comes to designing America a new ketchup bottle that sits upside down so all the ketchupy goodness has already moved right to the opening so that you can then squeeze it on to your fries and avoid all of that needless pounding on the bottom of the old glass ketchup bottles, capitalism is the way you want to go. Because capitalism gets you what you want, and at the lowest price.
But in a democracy, there’s a difference between what you want — my ketchup to come out of the bottle on cue — and what you need, which is an informed citizenry.
Our problem isn’t that we have capitalism and that we have democracy. It’s that we think they’re the same thing.
Public radio and public tv news: the meat and potatoes you squeeze that ketchup onto.