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Andrew Tyndall on Cable News Channels: ‘They Should be Called Politics Channels Instead’

Analyst Andrew Tyndall weighs in on the Jon Stewart-Rachel Maddow interview. He outlines and analyzes two of Stewart’s complaints about cable news, and synthesizes them into a single cogent argument:

“Especially on a light news day, especially in primetime, these networks do not deserve to be called news channels; they should be called politics channels instead.”

Stewart had two complaints. First, the reflex instinct of the cable news channels is to shoehorn every development, every dispute into a political template: “We have all bought into the idea that the conflict is red-vs-blue. It is not the right fight.” Stewart pointed out that this politicization preceded the primetime ideologues on FNC and then MSNBC. From its invention, CNN specialized in concentrating on political stories over non-political ones and also framing stories by default as binary left-vs-right disputes. No triangulation there–everything was Crossfire


Second, “proportionality is not their strong suit.” Even the most trivial developments are covered with urgency; even the mildest of opponents are demonized. A medium that was invented to provide minute-by-minute coverage of massive breaking news stories knows no way to handle mundane developments and disputes. Thus, Stewart argued, coverage of the legality of torture degenerates into namecalling about war criminals. Please, he implored cable news partisans, “fight on the most precise and proportional terms possible.”

I find both of Stewart’s complaints persuasive. Especially on a light news day, especially in primetime, these networks do not deserve to be called news channels; they should be called politics channels instead. A major reason why Tyndall Report continues to monitor the broadcast networks’ nightly newscasts is that, unlike on cable, they continue to try to cover all beats, political and non-political; public policy and elections; domestic and foreign; breaking news and features; human interest and societal institutions.

His entire analysis is worth reading, whether you agree with it or not. Check it out here, and let us know what you think in the comments.

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