Jewish World Review June 23, 2003 / 23 Sivan, 5763
The death of journalist David Brinkley brought the usual cries
of how terrible the state of TV news is these days. Newsweek magazine,
always a predictable source of establishment angst, praised Brinkley as one
of a kind and far superior to the "blowhard" TV news types these days. I
felt quite a breeze as that insult whizzed by.
Anyway, Brinkley was unique and skilled and an innovator,
there's no doubt about it. He was one of the few TV anchor people who never
pandered to the powerful, and his skepticism separated him from the fawning
majority of television types who, above all, want access to the famous and
infamous. For Brinkley, accurate analysis and information was the goal, and
if that offended somebody, so be it. He also had style and wit, something
severely lacking on Broadcast Row these days.
But the new era of instant information rendered David Brinkley
and many other broadcast veterans almost powerless. No longer is the
American public a captive audience, and no longer will the folks settle for
an expressionless recitation of the news. With the advent of the Internet
and round-the-clock cable news, the audience quickly knows the basic facts
of a story. But often along with those facts comes instant spin and
contradiction. Informational fog develops, leaving busy Americans in need of
context. They want to know how the journalists they trust feel
about things that are important to their lives. The news consumer
is almost desperate for someone to define the truth of the matter.
Thus, the good old days when the Brinkleys, the Cronkites and
even Tom, Dan and Peter could simply introduce stories in measured tones are
coming to an end. The audience for dispassionate TV news is shrinking, the
demand for passionate reporting and analysis is on the rise.
That trend, of course, is like a cross in front of a vampire for
the TV news traditionalists. They hate that. Even
though newspapers have editorialized from the very beginning of this
republic, and print columnists are legion, analysis during a TV news
broadcast is still very daunting for many network news types.
The question is, why? I had to ask Peter Jennings five times on
my program if it frustrated him to keep his opinions to himself all the
time. He finally admitted it did (or maybe he just wanted to shut me up).
But it makes sense. Jennings as well as Dan Rather and Tom Brokaw know a lot
more than they're telling you. They understand the issues and know who the
charlatans are. These three men should be commentators, not news readers.
They have insights far beyond most Americans. For the good of the country
they should share them.
Two things hold them back. First, it is risky to do news
analysis. You are bound to tick off some powerful people. Whatever opinion
you throw out, somebody's not going to like it. These guys are not used to
taking heat. When you have gazillions of dollars in the bank, who needs
Secondly, the network suits would get nervous. Newspaper
columnists are expected to offend people. TV types are not. They are
basically diplomats, and some are even a calming influence. Can you imagine
Peter Jennings pointing his finger demanding that President Bush come clean
about weapons of mass destruction? Can you picture Tom Brokaw pounding his
desk and chiding Hillary for writing a book full of propaganda? It is hard
to imagine, but wouldn't you like to see it?
Just about anybody can be taught to read the news. Topo Gigio,
the little Italian mouse could do it. Why are brilliant men like Jennings,
Rather and Brokaw wasting their time chucking headlines at us? The country
needs clarity and honest insights. David Brinkley is gone, but the others
still have some time.
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JWR contributor Bill O'Reilly is host of the
Fox News show, "The O'Reilly Factor," and author
of the new book, "The No-Spin Zone: Confrontations with the Powerful and Famous in America" Comments by clicking here.
06/16/03: The Hillary chronicles
06/09/03: Cronkite comes out of the closet
06/02/03: Teed off
05/27/03: The lynching of Bill Bennett
05/19/03: Get back home, Madonna
05/12/03: Prom night -- all white
05/05/03: Let's misbehave
04/28/03: No pain, no gain?
04/21/03: We stand of guard for thee
04/14/03: The spoils of war
04/07/03: When the truth is a casualty
03/31/03: Yes, you're entitled to your uninformed opinion
03/24/03: That's the way it isn't, Walter
03/17/03: This loyal Catholic believes that, humanistically, the Pope is one of the many Saddam enablers
03/10/03: The new Nazis
03/03/03: Hey, it's personal
02/24/03: A peace of the action
02/18/03: Cash for what?
02/10/03: Runaway train
02/03/03: Dissenting dishonest dissent
01/27/03: The Clooney Factor
01/21/03: Poverty-inducing entertainment
01/13/03: To protect and serve
12/30/02: Global double Crossing
12/30/02: The villains of 2002
12/23/02: Finding offense where none is intended is a form of selfishness
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11/11/02: The right stuff
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09/09/02: Answering my critics about the Roush case
09/03/02: Let's misbehave
08/26/02: Money makes the world go 'round
08/19/02: Long live the King
08/12/02: A friendly reminder
08/05/02: Heaven only knows
07/29/02: Blood money
07/22/02: Suffer the children
07/15/02: Reaching critical mass
07/08/02: Believe it or not
07/01/02: Charity begins at home
06/24/02: Spinning a tale and the case for "Stupid White Men"
06/17/02: Blank those Europeans!
06/10/02: What does Bono want from us?
06/03/02: On fighting evil
05/28/02: A Tale of Two Churches
05/20/02: Crimes against humanity
05/13/02: Silence of the lambs
05/06/02: Hide the children
04/29/02: 'Paul, Paul, Paul!'
04/22/02: Barbarians in the Church
04/15/02: Pray for peace, polish the weapons
03/11/02: Do no harm? Time to spank "Dr. Phil"
03/04/02: Promoting the general welfare
02/25/02: Who's responsible?
02/19/02: Lay it on them
02/11/02: Buy dope, fund terror
02/04/02: Back room deals
01/28/02: From boom to bust
01/21/02: The Fairness Doctrine
01/14/02: Hey, Paula, take it to the bank and hush up
01/07/02: And justice for none
12/31/01: All that's left
12/24/01: Santa is appalled
12/17/01: Fight the power
12/10/01: The black challenge
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11/26/01: Waiting in the Bushes
11/19/01: The sign of the Cross
11/09/01: Hollyweird strikes back
11/06/01: The fear factor
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06/18/01: Work or die
06/11/01: Soundbite nation
06/04/01: Paying through the nose
05/29/01: Graduation Day 2001
05/21/01: Accepting the unacceptable
05/14/01: The Clinton legacy
05/07/01: Kerrey's ordeal
04/27/01: Is the party over?
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04/16/01: The fleecing of America
04/10/01: People who need perspective
04/03/01: Dubya's bottom line --- and ours
03/27/01: Don't tell, don't ask
03/20/01: Greenspan with envy
03/13/01: Clinton and Jackson
03/07/01: All that's left in America
02/27/01: The Letterman experience
02/20/01: Bread and circuses
02/06/01: How the Clintons do it
01/30/01: The Bush dilemma
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© 2001 Creators Syndicate