...for the practice of objective journalism and gets ripped in the process.
Let's examine what Koppel wrote in last weekend's Washington Post:
The commercial success of both Fox News and MSNBC is a source of nonpartisan sadness for me. While I can appreciate the financial logic of drowning television viewers in a flood of opinions designed to confirm their own biases, the trend is not good for the republic.
Do we Americans not want our news organizations to celebrate their investigative and truth-telling reports instead of their bloviating program hosts masquerading as journalists?
[W]hen our accountants, bankers and lawyers, our doctors and our politicians tell us only what we want to hear, despite hard evidence to the contrary, we are headed for disaster.
Indeed, anyone who has allowed their financial, legal, medical or other diet to basically go to hell knows that hearing the truth hurts. Unless they are too pig-headed to want to know. Don't believe me? Ask me about the changes I had to make to my diet and exercise levels and about the lectures from my doctor about why.
Much of the American public used to gather before the electronic hearth every evening, separate but together, while Walter Cronkite, Chet Huntley, David Brinkley, Frank Reynolds and Howard K. Smith offered relatively unbiased accounts of information that their respective news organizations believed the public needed to know. The ritual permitted, and perhaps encouraged, shared perceptions and even the possibility of compromise among those who disagreed.
Though true, Koppel's comments here are waxing a bit nostalgic; moreover, one could infer from these words that cable news organizations are not capable of delivering such programs. It's not that they are not capable; rather, they prefer not to so as to make significant profits.
The transition of news from a public service to a profitable commodity is irreversible... Broadcast news has been outflanked and will soon be overtaken by scores of other media options. The need for clear, objective reporting in a world of rising religious fundamentalism, economic interdependence and global ecological problems is probably greater than it has ever been. But we are no longer a national audience receiving news from a handful of trusted gatekeepers; we're now a million or more clusters of consumers, harvesting information from like-minded providers.
I've been saying much the same thing in my classes and on this blog. The implication of Koppel's words have not been fully considered by the American public.
And now, here come the naysayers. Slate's Jack Shafer leaves little doubt that he thinks Koppel is guilty of simply not being able to keep up with the times. Bill O'Reilly (!) said what he says best -- prove that I've lied. In other words, attack the messenger and cloud the message. Keith Olbermann said what he says best -- how dare anyone suggest that MSNBC and FOX News belong in the same breath; his network, of course, practices traditional hard-hitting and objective journalism, while FOX News is loaded with propaganda masquerading as news. In other words, attack the messenger....
I'm standing alongside Koppel. If that makes me old-fashioned, out-of-touch or holding on to dead definition of what news ought to be, then so be it.