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Cable News Makes Bad Politics

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Every news provider and we, as media trainers, whose job is to prep people who talk to news providers, know one essential truth: it's all about story-telling. Without a good story, the piece and the enterprise, won't have much audience Velcro. How come? Because that's how we first learn about the world as children - whether it's Disney, Sesame Street, Little Red Riding Hood or the Bible. We access the world through stories. Is there anyone out there who didn't learn the lesson about NOT crying for help when nothing's wrong after hearing the story of The Boy Who Cried Wolf? Don't think so. As adults, we never lose the hankering to ingest information and entertainment through story-telling.

So, what makes for a good story? We're back to what every news provider and media trainer knows: FRICTION. Friction is the primo ingredient - who's up, who's down, who's in, who's out, what's right, what's wrong? Without that friction, the story really won't keep much of an audience tuned-in. Even those boiler-plate business stories about quarterly earnings deliver numbers as they compare to previous numbers. Friction.

Friction and conflict is what also makes the world go 'round: nation vs. nation, good/evil, nurture/nature, religion/science, Sunni/Shia, red states/blue states, Fox News/MSNBC, public option/socialized medicine.

In literature, movies, TV drama or comedy, friction is the engine that often drives the story to a satisfactory resolution. Homer's Odysseus does find his way home in the end and TV's Homer Simpson eventually stumbles on the error of his ways - until next week.

NOT SO WITH OUR CABLE-TV NEWS PROVIDERS. Their job description requires them to deliver friction. Friction IS the end, the additive that keeps us all tuned-in and cranked up. And this is why cable news makes for bad politics. The cable friction formula has jumped the shark into politics and governance. It works for cable news providers - it does NOT work for politicians. Never-ending conflict in politics is mostly anger, resentment and stalemate.

Universal healthcare has been on the legislative table since Franklin Roosevelt. It's been gridlocked ever since by an ideological clash defined as 'free-market' vs 'socialized medicine.' Resolution through consensus, sometimes called compromise, doesn't seem to be an option - up to now. In fact, the very notion of compromise is used as friction re-defined as 'steadfast' vs 'weak.'

Well, we now have a president whose first choice is to find accommodation - whatever the political situation. But, some folks agree with former Czech president, Vaclav Havel, who called Obama's recent Dalai Lama- China meeting decision "...a minor compromise, but exactly with these minor compromises start the big and dangerous ones, the real problems." When did thoughtful compromise become dangerous, the villain of the piece?

VacMan seems to have forgotten that democracy IS accommodation, compromise and resolution. That's how the system is set up. Our nation's capitol is in Washington because Alexander Hamilton wanted a national bank and Southerner's wanted the capitol city on their turf - an outcome both sides could live with. Governing is what Lyndon Johnson called "the art of the possible." So when White House Senior Advisor, David Axelrod, says "There will be (healthcare) compromise," he's not talking winning or losing, or what's going to animate cable news.

Cable news providers' job is to deliver continuous friction to their niche subscribers. Politicians' jobs are to deliver results to millions of us through thousands of our federal, state and local legislatures. How are you going to do that without accommodation and compromise? The reality is: it IS what's doable, not what keeps cable subscribers tuned-in and cranked up.