01/20/2008 08:28 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Entertainment Content and Commentary Dressed Up as News

I have excerpted parts of an excellent article written by my friend "the Journalist," Reese Schonfeld.

This, in part, is what Reese said:

"Politicians have become performers, playing their parts on the platform we have provided for them. Their teams of strategists, pollsters, writers have prepared them for their performances and hope that they'll stick to the script. The best of our anchors and reporters try to throw them off stride, and get a meaningful comment, but most of our journalists just sit there and nod, even at their most outrageous claims. (We really don't have the "worlds best health care system.")

In this process we weed out the poor performers, and promote the viability of stronger, more artful campaigners. I do not believe that the best performer will necessarily be the best President..."

I was once described by the Chairman of a major media company as "a film peddler," and that for me is far from being an insult, and is in fact very reflective of what I have done for the last 48 years of my life. I am certainly NO journalist.

It was in the early eighties while at Polygram that we did a Television series called "Eric Sevareid's Chronicle."

Eric, an American broadcast journalist legend, and an eloquent commentator had been with CBS News from 1939-77. He pioneered a new journalism by introducing opinion and analysis in news reports. While I was discussing the content of our program with Eric, it was not possible for me to properly describe my feelings of my gross inadequacy to him.

As I recall, Eric told me that he was free to say whatever he chose to say on CBS in that his segments were clearly labeled as "commentary." I suggested that CBS did in fact place "invisible lines" around him, and that he stayed within those lines. Eric was not at all pleased by what I said, but I told him that in the show we were doing that he was free to be as critical and outrageous as he wanted to be in that there was NO Broadcast Network oversight.

Notwithstanding what I said to Eric about his freedom, being as outspoken as he could be turned out not to be an easy thing for him to do after all of those years at CBS.

Does anyone think that the ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, and the entirety of the cable network "journalists" would stay employed if they were critical night after night of the administration? (This is with the possible exception of Keith Olbermann.)

In the past a good deal of Network Television content has served our society well. Network news was much less of a "magazine" program then it is today, and many more people watched it. The Networks even presented quality documentaries on contemporary issues on a timely basis.

I have been involved in the creation and sales of "reality" programming well before it was called that. The company I worked for was making "reality" content for Canadian Networks and stations. Why did we produce this type of content you might ask?


Content of all sorts produced primarily for cable suffers from the "we need to make stuff at a price" and this is "consistent" with our expectation of much smaller audiences.

People have a tendency to believe "whatever" is said on Television. Our beloved Vice President keeps saying that Iraq held WMD's long after it was proven that they didn't. About a third of our population continues to believe him.

Now at long last, what the hell is my point?

CNN, FoxNews, MSNBC, among others, has created a new REALITY Television concept of "wall to wall" opinion, interrupted from time to time by some actual news and/or otherwise useful information

For the most part, these Cable Network people, set about to "sell" their "opinions" to America all the time and they have an incredible influence on the American Electorate.

They have become the "critics" of politicians and politics. They should not appear "dressed as Journalists," but rather as "performers" who serve, as Archie Bunker did so long ago to entertain, and to convince viewers of "what to conclude."

This is not a good thing.
This is not a fair thing.
This is of course better then "Dancing With The Stars," but not much.

The opening and most relevant paragraph of Reese's article is:

"Never has a symbiotic relationship between politicians and television been as obvious as in the past two weeks. First it was the 24-hour news networks, then the internet, and finally, the major broadcast networks that discovered that primaries, nominations, and elections could serve as the mother's milk of TV. They fill air-time, and the actors work for nothing."

Norman Horowitz
Film Peddler