Never in a presidential election cycle have America’s voters been more poorly served by the national news media, and especially television, as they now are.
The charade began months ago when the initial televised debates of the Republican candidates were arbitrarily divided by television executives into groups of top tier candidates and losers, with those failing to muster strong polling numbers assigned to the children’s table for separate debate sessions seen by a relative handful of voters.
Media focus on Donald Trump’s unconventional campaign – in amusement, ridicule or, perhaps, in horror – and then on Hillary Clinton’s email woes and her own perceived character flaws came at the expense of balanced coverage of other candidates and the important issues facing the nation.
Then came the Democratic National Committee’s admitted efforts to undermine Bernie Sanders’ campaign in order to promote Clinton as the party’s choice.
Now, with the party nominees determined, the media attention remains focused largely on personal attacks and pettiness rather than on the candidates’ positions on major issues. The reason is simple. The TV networks and the rest of mass media are driven to maximize their audiences.
Adequately informing their listeners, viewers and readers is secondary. Controversy, no matter how trivial, sells.
And the infamy continues with the TV networks’ decision to exclude from the upcoming debates both Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein. For those Americans who continue to show up at political rallies held by the candidates, perhaps the bluster, the name-calling and the host of unsupported promises are enough. But for millions of other voters, their only hope is to search out information actively and laboriously from whatever sources may be available to help them learn about the candidates and their positions on the issues that matter.
They’ll get no help from big media.