Many of us have grown weary of the partisan hyperbole and tone of television news reporting. At the risk of dating myself, I can remember a time when CBS Evening News anchor Walter Cronkite was declared the most trusted person in America. His steady and unconditional neutral manner of delivering any news may have been robotic, but it cemented the notion in America that an independent press was to be trusted, was a vital unofficial fourth branch of our Democracy, and the only check and balance to elected officials.
Today's media is more sport than tact, panders more to delivery with personality and narcissism, and expects editorializing to pair with facts. Clever writers turn up the volume with snappy sound bite titles to every story to dummy down to the "fast food to go society," to capture large ideas as a marketing tool, and to boost viewer recidivism and ratings. The media mirrors America's sports mentality by how it reports big stories and makes stories big.
America is a sports saturated society and recently we have been gorging on a steady diet of Olympic size events. From the Super Bowl in New Jersey to the Sochi Winter Olympics, Americans have been glued to viewing screens showcasing great teams and great players defying average physics and bone crushing danger. Slick logos and uniforms inform about alliances and adversaries. These are adrenaline producing competitive events with winners and losers that reward with huge paychecks and narrative applications to daily life.
Sandwiched amongst these gladiatorial competitions is a political one of similar Olympic scale and flavor now forever packaged by the media as "Bridgegate." All the fixings of a great Olympic event with front runner status, fans passionately aligning behind their idol, defectors maligning their adversary, and the anticipation of the quick rise or fall for glory or the agony of defeat that can bring power, wealth, and immense endorsements are there. Best of all though, it has brought strong ratings to MSNBC, indicating Americans can feed on a political story while munching snacks during their beloved sporting fix.
Reminiscent of when reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein of the Washington Post caught on to President Richard Nixon's Watergate scandal, it was good old school journalism at the local level in New Jersey that smelled something foul, and discovered all the lanes from the George Washington Bridge led to Governor Chris Christie. It was then that MSNBC had relentlessly ran with the story. The Rachel Maddow Show topped the ratings and MSNBC has sustained a strong surge in viewers. Governor Christie is now in a fight for his political life as he struggles to free himself from a state of suspension from the suspension bridge lane closures scandal.
It was the Washington Post's steady editorial cartoonist, Herblock, that saw through the double speak folksy denials of President Nixon, and began to even caricature Nixon with dark five o'clock shadows giving him a crook's persona. Herblock was so right on in his relentless depictions of Nixon that when finally Nixon had no choice left but to resign his throne, he exited power as an emperor without clothes that grew completely into his caricature. Herblock said, "the worst form of corruption is acceptance of corruption."
Although I find much of today's news reporting trite, annoying, over blown in importance, and just like sports reporting in general, not worthy of so much communication real estate, I am grateful to Rachel Maddow, the MSNBC team, and our fourth branch of government for staying on "Bridgegate" until Governor Chris Christie's ruse runs out of energy and he is seen as the caricature great journalism exposed.