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The Long National Nightmare

November, 2016
By John Huckans

Laugh about it, shout about it
When you've got to choose
Every way you look at this you lose...

I think our presidential elections have become perpetual reality television for all sorts of reasons – for one thing it gives steady jobs to political reporters and a lot of advertising dollars for people in the television news business.  We might hope it will be over and done with come November 8th, but I fear this is the nightmare that won't go away.  My pretty safe prediction is that barely six months into 2017 some television 'news reporters' with nothing better to do will be stirring up speculation about likely candidates for 2020 and start the cycle all over again.  I placed 'news reporters' in single quotes because by now it must be fairly obvious that journalists have all but given up their traditional role of being disinterested professionals and have become enthusiastic and unashamed curators of the news.  

Imagine a warehouse filled with the collections of a few dozen bookstores and art galleries.  Depending on the effect the curator wants to achieve, he or she could select, extract and arrange almost any sort of focused exhibition that suited the curator's taste or fancy – modern first editions, Western Americana, polar travel, 19th century English literature, European history, French impressionism, abstract expressionism, the Barbizon School, and so on.  Not a balanced display certainly – but then people often rely on and are happy to have others pick and choose for them.  I have no problem with bookstores and art galleries deciding on what to offer to the public.  I do have a problem with corporate media curating the news – which means deciding what the public should or should not know about current events.  We've seen a lot of this in recent years – television reporters spending less time reporting news and more time trying to create or shape the public's perception of it.  The current Donna Brazile scandal is just one example of a story of which many ill-informed people are unaware.

Call it Mrs. Robinson's lament or whatever you want, but it's no laughing matter.  We may all be losers next Tuesday, but this time the corporate (and to some extent public) television news media are among the biggest losers because without credibility, what do they have left?  As much as I sometimes criticize social media and alternative news sources, I must admit they have played an increasingly important role in providing diverse sources of unfiltered information to people wanting to know more about what's really going on in the world — and if in the process they drag the television news shows kicking and screaming into the 21st century, then society will ultimately benefit.   

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