It could be almost ostentatious to use legendary broadcast journalist Edward MurrowâÄôs 1958 speech about the prostitution of television âÄî as a tool to insulate and entertain rather than inform âÄî to comment on the prescience of his remarks. Any observer will tell you the point is rather obvious nowadays. Yet, just as when Murrow spoke, media is transforming, and itâÄôs important that broadcast journalists consider the burden of their responsibility as print declines. As Murrow said, âÄúThis instrument can teach, it can illuminate; yes, and it can even inspire.âÄù
Otherwise, Murrow warned, television is good for nothing but to âÄúentertain, amuse and insulate.âÄù Indeed, 50 years after his speech, news programs are rare and vapid âÄî even the local ones. Save some major network and public television coverage, television journalism is an echo chamber of punditry, sensationalism and fluff.
A recent local incident involving KMSP Fox9 is illustrative of this point. In response to a recent child abduction in Edina, the station planned a segment that would shame Jerry Springer. Fox9 was going to send reporter Trish Van Pilsum cruising EdinaâÄôs streets in an SUV asking children for directions. The station never followed through with the story. And, in response to criticism, Fox9 claimed it was going to gain parental consent before approaching a child. Nevertheless, the idea was in the planning stages; Fox9 was going to risk the mental well being of children as a cheap excuse for a segment allegedly showing child susceptibility to strangers. ThatâÄôs not news.
This newspaper makes its mistakes, and the purpose of this editorial is not to lambast Fox9. Rather, this is representatives of declining medium urging representatives of a more profitable one to handle the news with responsibility. Television does lend itself to intelligent and hard journalism âÄî Murrow, after all, uncovered a political witch hunt. So itâÄôs distressing that todayâÄôs television journalists are hunting children.