Journalism industry falters when nation most needs it

Chuck Todd and Rachel Maddow of NBC hosting the first Democrat debate/Getty Image

By Jeffrey M. Mccall, opinion contributor | The Hill

The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the view of The Hill

The nation suffers today from information chaos characterized by competing political narratives, fake news and social media mayhem. Citizens struggle to make sense of confusing messages entering the public sphere from propagandists, provocateurs, corporatists, political activists and other self-serving sources.

America’s constitutional framers created a First Amendment that allowed for a free press. The free press, presumably, would then provide a wide range of information, thus helping citizens sort out the superficial, emotional and irrational from the reasonable. The “news” was to be the conversation of democracy. The press was to serve as surrogate for the public, holding the powerful accountable. The press was expected to manage information chaos.

Now, in the 21st Century, the role and effectiveness of the American press must be scrutinized to assess whether it can truly measure up to its constitutional promise. The news media may now be more of a hindrance than a help to national understanding.

The cringeworthy performance of the news media in recent weeks rightly troubles sensible Americans. The journalists’ dreadful performance in the Democratic presidential candidate debates demonstrated how a news network would dumb down and exploit an exercise in democracy for crass promotional purposes. NBC’s panel of reporters themselves became part of the debate, making their stances known and hogging time from the real candidates. The use of “raise your hand” questions made the event look like a second grade classroom.


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