Too bad there isn’t a Nobel Prize for news reporting.
If there were one (and nominations were accepted from people like me), I would nominate Rachel Maddow. She has reinvented broadcast news, and completely redefined reporting.
In the days of my youth, news reporting was “objective,” meaning that it was reported from the perspective of a middle-to-upper class white, male, American elder. Reporting was not intended to inspire activism, but rather to support the status quo. Great reporters, such as Walter Cronkite, and Huntley and Brinkley, brought us horrible footage from the Vietnam War, but they largely refrained from overt editorializing.
In the last two decades of media consolidation, “objective” corporate reporting has veered farther and farther from the experience of most Americans, finally bursting the surly bonds of our shared gravity, and careening into its own obviously hyperbolic orbit. The corporate news looks an awful lot like propaganda.
Rachel Maddow has changed the news by dispensing with feigned objectivity (and focusing on actual research). She flatly states her own point of view in every broadcast, spicing her reports with deliciously tart personal observations regarding the hypocrisy, inconsistency and “truthiness” (or lack thereof) of people in the news, along with the actual impact of their policies on our lives. Maddow is frequently the first T.V. broadcaster to bring attention to an important issue. While all other news stations covered BP’s attempts to plug its catastrophically failed well, Maddow made the rounds of respected but uncelebrated scientists to explore non-existent funding streams for research into oil spill clean-up and recovery. She examined ineffective efforts to place (but not maintain boom) and the pitiful funding allotted to the training of recovery workers.
You can bet your bippy that funding will begin to flow into these grossly neglected waters! Maybe not as quickly as oil is flowing into the Gulf but far more quickly than it has over the previous four decades.
Maddow’s reporting verges on interactive. By explaining the historical reasons that the clean-up effort has been inadequate, she turns on the floodlights for activists, helping us to channel our energies as effectively as possible. Despite its snark, Maddow’s reporting is thoroughly uncynical. She obviously believes change is possible. She empowers her listeners to act without denigrating their efforts up to the current moment.
We have grown accustomed to the deeply cynical efforts of right-wing broadcasters such as Limbaugh, Beck and Rove, who dispense with research, and direct false, hateful accusations at our leaders in an attempt to block reform of the
“free market” corporate monopolies that stifle healthy communities and a healthy world economy. Beck, Limbaugh, Rove, Palin et al aim to intimidate the left with threats of violence. Like other historical demagogues, they promote ignorance and hatred to block change.
Too many left-wing bloggers employ the same tactic. Rather than illuminating new paths so that we can move forward, they craft poorly researched diatribes blanketing Obama and other democratic leaders in verbal buckshot. They are cynically trolling for traffic and are not adding anything constructive to the national dialogue.
My children are growing older. My youngest just became a Bar Mitzvah while my eldest is beginning to think about college. As a mother, it is my role to begin to cede to them a platform from which to speak and act. After all, in a few years, they will be assigned the parallel tasks of fixing our mistakes and maintaining our successes, as we did for our parents before them.
We cannot fulfill our responsibility to younger generations by tearing down the leaders they have chosen. We fulfill our responsibilities to youth by suggesting ways they can help their chosen leaders to lead.
When Rachel Maddow was disappointed by the President’s Oval Office address, she didn’t rant about “failure” or “weakness.” She very creatively dubbed herself “Fake President Maddow,” pretended she was sitting in the Oval Office, and gave the speech we all wished our Commander In Chief had given.