I thoroughly enjoyed the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland, and I fully expect I will also enjoy the Democrat Convention in Philadelphia next week. For political junkies and public policy wonks (and I’ve been something of each over long stretches of time in my life) these quadrennial events are analogous to the Olympics or the World Cup. They show the American political process of selecting our principal Presidential candidates at its ultimate frenzy, in all of its glory, its hokey pageantry, and all of its travesty. It is a thing both beautiful and ugly to behold by the truly objective eye. Principles, promises, and puffery all choreographed to ostensibly inform and deliberately incite potential voters. Of course, for committed partisan viewers, only the convention of their affiliated party will likely be appreciated, the other being despised as so much deviltry.
But what I didn’t enjoy was the TV news coverage itself. I tried watching them all, flipping the channel at every commercial break in the broadcast: the major networks of ABC, CBS and NBC, as well as the major cable outlets of CNN, FOX and MSNBC. And in one conspicuous regard, they were all disappointingly alike. None of them faithfully aired all of the speeches. Instead, they ignored many speakers, in whole or in part, and used that air time to feature their own talking heads with their own points of view, via a seemingly endless array of roving reporters, analysts, commentators and so-called expert panels.
But it was the speakers I wanted to hear. All of them. Not just the ones the news folks deemed worthy. I’m perfectly capable of coming to my own conclusions and value judgments about what the speakers have to say. I don’t need some third party interlocutor or interpreter to help me understand what’s going on. At the very least, they could have waited until each speech had concluded before strutting their stuff and spouting their opinions.
The fourth estate just ain’t what it used to be.