News Media and Larry King

By Tom Dougherty
News media and Larry King: How times have worsened

News media and Larry King: How times have changed

When hearing of Larry King’s death at the age of 87, my first thought was: My, how things have changed. I was thinking of the state of current news media. Especially among the cable news networks.

news mediaWhen King reigned on CNN for 25 years, networks like CNN, MSNBC and even Fox News to an extent were nothing like they are today. They were interested in interviews, catching breaking news or live intercuts as often as possible.

I don’t know if I’d call it news as much as entertainment. But it certainly wasn’t what it’s like now. With every TV news media outlet more political and partisan. With shouting a common tactic. And outlandish claims getting examined like rabbis reading the Torah.

I enjoyed King’s shows. But I never saw them as necessarily news. They were entertainment. And he did find unique questions to ask his guests. Even if some of them were of the late night talk show variety.

But I’m fascinated by the evolution of TV news media. We went from Cronkite to Dan Rather to John Chancellor. Then to Tom Brokaw and Peter Jennings.

Then something happened. The cable news networks emerged, tiptoeing into a 24-hour news cycle that rippled throughout journalism. No more was there a search for truth. It was getting two sides of the extremes to argue with each other.

“I never thought I’d long for the Larry King interviews. But, considering today’s state of news media, it’d be a cool glass of water for a dying man’s thirst.”

When did the TV news media change?

I sensed a change in the atmosphere when CNN aired Crossfire. It featured one right-leaning pundit and a left-leaning one. Tom Braden and Pat Buchanan were the first hosts. Then along came Robert Novak and Michael Kinsley during the peak years of the 1990s.

t1larg.crossfirelogoWhat struck me about that program was it was just arguing. There was no other point to it. You got no resolution. No settled truth in the matter. Just noise. With the volume up.

The TV news media of today has taken that to the extremes. Fox News initially branded itself as “Fair and Balanced.” A joke, mind you. But positioned against the perception of the other liberal-leaning news networks. Then it became “Most Watched, Most Trusted” until “Standing Up for What’s Right” last year.

In reaction, MSNBC has become known as the left network. And CNN? Probably nearer to MSNBC than Fox, although it often struggles to find a differentiating voice.

How did we get here? How did we go from Larry King, who as far as I know didn’t have a political bone in his body, to this? Can we even describe it as news media anymore?

It’s just affirmation media. You simply watch what affirms your opinion. Without that opinion being challenged.

I never thought I’d long for the Larry King interviews. But, considering today’s state of news media, it’d be a cool glass of water for a dying man’s thirst.

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