Every morning upon awakening I roll over, grab my smartphone, and take a look at the latest headlines on Google and Yahoo! News. Lately I’ve noticed a disturbing addition to the sources regularly featured on Yahoo! News: The Blaze.
According to Wikipedia, The Blaze is “a conservative news and opinion website”. Curious the order listed there; it’s definitely heavy on the opinion, light on actual news. It’s owned by Glenn Beck, one of the right-wingiest, nutjobbiest of all right-wing nut jobs, so it’s not surprising. What is surprising to me is that this website is being listed alongside news sources such as Reuters, the Associated Press, and links to network news broadcasts as though this were a long-standing non-partisan news agency source. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not saying this because I’m a progressive. I would be wondering the same thing if Yahoo! were regularly featuring Daily Kos on its news page. These websites, whether you agree with them or not, are opinion sites — echo chambers — not news sites.
This trend of giving opinion websites credibility they don’t deserve extends far beyond the Internet. On the day of the Boston Marathon bombings, Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick held a press conference to relay the latest information gathered. The first question taken by Gov. Patrick was a thinly veiled accusation of a “false flag staged attack” from a “reporter” from the Alex Jones website Infowars.com, a conspiracy theory website that makes Glenn Beck and The Blaze seem absolutely lucid. I was livid, as my subsequent tweet showed. What I asked then is the same question I ask now (albeit with much less profanity): how do these poeple get in to important press conferences such as this? Is the bar for qualification really set that low? After that stunt, the same guy was at an FBI press conference a few days later. Astounding. I’m starting to wonder now if I could get into one of these pressers. After all, I write for a blog now; I’ve certainly got as much experience in my background now as this guy. At a White House press conference back in June of 2012, a writer for conservative pundit Tucker Carlson’s website The Daily Caller interrupted the President while he was still speaking. It boggles my mind; how in the world do these people get press credentials?
Did it perhaps begin with the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine in the late 80s? Can it be linked to the decline of print journalism paired with a growing political divide and a shrinking attention span? Or is it a combination of all of these? Your guess is as good as mine. What I do know is that American media is becoming more like the great Paddy Chayefsky’s film Network every day, and every day opinion-based media is being given the label of “news outlet” when in actuality, to quote Chayefsky, they exist merely for the purpose of ” . . . the propagation of their own personal political propaganda.”