Throw away your television

Our news media’s inability to maintain focus isn’t just fruitless; it hurts our nation.

by Matthew Hoy

After last week’s elections, the news media is ablaze with predictions for the next election. The biggest beneficiary of this coverage is New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, whose fabled 2016 presidential campaign was a grassroots phenomenon that empowered his base while stirring moderates and —

Wait, he hasn’t run for president yet? That’s strange. I could have sworn that he had beaten Hillary Clinton and was now the leader of our nation. How do you explain all of these side-by-side videos and even hypothetical polls (Clinton is leading) of Clinton and Christie’s presidential chances?

Well, I guess that just means cable news networks have been wasting time speculating on a race that is still years away, mere days after a slew of races just ended.

It’s as if they aren’t really “news” organizations at all, but “random guesses about what might happen in the future” organizations. That’s it: They’re a psychic hotline where everyone wears suits and makes tons of money, lent credibility by our politicians and print media seemingly for no reason.

Right now the only thing keeping us from a 24/7 Christie watch is our media’s adulation for the Toronto mayor who smoked crack and a former Miami Dolphins super villain called Incognito who verbally harassed teammate Jonathan Martin.

Have they forgotten that just weeks ago, renegade members of Congress shut down our government? At a certain point, the fleeting attention span of our news media becomes responsible for the miniscule shelf life of important issues in our national dialogue.

If our media is to be the Fourth Estate it ought to be, we need to let thoughtful people actually address issues in a constructive way. Unfortunately, the CNN model of sitting two people who hate each other at a table  and then letting them scream is what the idea of constructive dialogue has amounted to.

When this is the expected model, it means that politicians who do hugely irresponsible damage to our country are only held accountable for a week or two before we let them back out to play. But if you have a sex scandal, watch out.

That’s the problem with our media’s obsession with the new shiny object: It undermines the critical role that journalism is supposed to play.