Thursday, April 17, 2008

TV debate moderators scrape the bottom

I'm sure many of you have received the Move-On petition protesting the inane "gotcha" questions on last night's ABC Network debate.

If not, here is where you can go to sign the petition, which will be sent to ABC News.

You are also invited to add your own comments. Here's what I wrote:

I am a journalist and a former student of Fred Friendly, who was the conscience of television journalism for many, including those of us who studied under him at Columbia University.

The "performance" of your moderators during Wednesday's debate was a disgrace to broadcast journalism. I am only grateful that Fred isn't around to see what so often passes for television "journalism" today.

Last night you actually managed to lower a bar that many of us previously had thought could go no lower.

Note that the problem is not limited to ABC News. Television journalism started to unravel 35 years ago when "personalities" and "happy talk" drove up ratings. From there, TV journalism descended into polemic and sarcasm. No need to name names; we know them all too well. The line between news and opinion disappeared. Lurid video of crime, candid shots of celebrities and depictions of mayhem pushed aside serious reporting. News was no longer a public service but spectacle and entertainment chasing audience and advertising dollars.

And so in this election year, perhaps the most important in decades, we are left with smirking, cynical TV coverage of the inane and irrelevant. It's just this kind of "reporting" that framed the public debate in the past two presidential elections. Look at what that got us.

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