Koppel: Lack of facts signals the 'death of real news'

I wrote yesterday about narcissism and politics -- how American self-absorption may lead us to make rash voting choices based not on facts but on self-centered emotions. (A lot of this is detailed by Jennifer Senior in New York magazine.)

This is not a partisan malady (or observation), and it doesn't just infect politics. In a recent opinion piece published by The Washington Post, former ABC News heavyweight Ted Koppel makes much the same argument in describing how journalistic standards have devolved into left-right talking heads who bicker on TV for fun and profit.

Koppel writes this new kind of hyper-partisan "news" comes from "a national sense of entitlement."

He goes on to say:

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Among the many benefits we have come to believe the founding fathers intended for us, the latest is news we can choose. Beginning, perhaps, from the reasonable perspective that absolute objectivity is unattainable, Fox News and MSNBC no longer even attempt it. They show us the world not as it is, but as partisans (and loyal viewers) at either end of the political spectrum would like it to be... It is also part of a pervasive ethos that eschews facts in favor of an idealized reality. The fashion industry has apparently known this for years: Esquire magazine recently found that men's jeans from a variety of name-brand manufacturers are cut large but labeled small. The actual waist sizes are anywhere from three to six inches roomier than their labels insist.

Like children, Koppel says, we are too-easily flattered into believing that anything that matches our closed worldview is inherently true. But flattery is not what we need right now, he writes -- we need something that is in sadly short supply: facts.

Koppel goes on to blame the race for profits: once broadcast news became a profit center, its fate was sealed. News divisions would need to do whatever it took to keep the profits coming.

But -- as I wrote yesterday and as Koppel discusses here -- we're also to blame. We are too comfortable in our closed-off info-worlds of left vs. right -- and the internet and cable television and Twitter and Facebook make it too easy for us to live there twenty-four hours a day.


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