Not just another pretty face.
I'm probably the only one around the Clothesline who's going to shed a tear for Tim Russert. And it seems to be my besmirched little pew here at the CLB to defend the MSM. (See comments on the previous post.)
So, first Tim, then the MSM.
On Sundays, my husband goes to church and I go to the morning talkies. I generally surf between Stephanopoulos and Russert, depending on what guest is appearing where, or which host has pissed me off more. For awhile I abandoned Russert due to his steady stream of Republicans -- a girl can only take so much of Lindsey Graham and John McCain -- and the insufferable Mary Matalin and James Carville punditing afterwards. Then Steph lost me, probably for good, thanks to his inane questions during the final so-called Clinton-Obama debate. When that's over, I read the NYTimes, but more on that later.
There was something in Russert that I couldn't help but like. His face squished into his lopsided head without a hint of handsome, but with a kind of bright-eyed intensity that we rarely see on the usual TV talkers. To some, and some who hang out here, I know he coddled the liars and let too many of the gas bags rise when he should have jabbed them with a sharp stick, but there were also many moments when he played their own words back at them and asked them to explain how they were for it before they were against it, whether it was McCain on abortion or Kerry on Iraq.
And there was something honest and touching to me in his relationship with his father, his blue-collar rust-belt past, his unapologetic love of major league sports, and his unabashed pride in his son. He always struck me as a decent hard-working guy who got to where he was due to that decency, along with his intellect, and not on good looks or palavering.
And he loved the Boss -- who last night, on tour in Europe, dedicated Thunder Road to him. And he was only 58. And I'm sad to see him go.
As for the MSM, like Barb, it about killed me to be at the DFL convention in Rochester and not at the conference here in Mpls. And everyone I know who was at the conference was blown away by the energy and the power they felt. When I came back from Mayo-land I felt like I did in 1969 when I came back from camping on the California coast and learned that I'd missed Woodstock.
That said, I have always argued that we on the left, and we who love the blog-o-sphere and on-line news, are still dependent in some big ways on the staffing and reporting of the biggies. Yes, the Times was a "willing and compliant" press in the rush to war, and there are problems and glitches and oversights galore, not all of them by accident, and the conglomerate news empires are NOT part of a healthy democracy. But much of what even the very biggest and best blogs do is reacting to the news they get from the MSM. The blogs may ferret out the truth or shade the truth, and make missing connections and report on things heard from other sources, all of which is important, but someone needs to convince me that without the MSM the blogs could do a thorough job of covering the daily events of the world on their own. Maybe if I'd gone to the conference I'd have a better understanding of this.
But in the old days, when the MSM wasn't so consolidated and we had more independent journalists, were were we getting more pure news? Were we getting the whole story, uncensored or uncolored by the publisher/owner's interest? Somehow, I don't think so.
During the Vietnam war, just about everyone tuned in to Walter Cronkite, who very quickly made it clear what a deadly folly that war was. Is the reason there is no Cronkite now because of consolidation, or because of the opposite, the rise of cable news and many other sources of news? So, some people tune into Fox news and xxx and others to MSNBC and Keith Olberman. And we got lucky with Cronkite. We might have had a Fox-y kind of guy who would have seen that war in a McCain-Lieberman sort of way
Not saying I love the job the MSM is doing, and everyone who sees the Star Trib in death throes knows that it's hardly doing the job at all any more. (And rumors are afoot of a possible local buyout, adios Chris Harte.)
But in some ways the MSM reminds me of my local independent book seller, or my family-owned computer store. People go there to handle the goods, read the book jackets, play with the newest computer widgets, get advice, and then go home and make their purchase on-line. The local guy has to fund the overhead of a store and a staff, all to our benefit, but the on-line guy, with almost zero overhead, gets the sale.
I know today's MSM is hardly a struggling little independent book seller. I know that I sound old and stuck, lacking in vision. But there's a lot in a newspaper like the NYTimes that I still like, and that I'll never get from a blog, whether it's Science Times, or the Sunday Magazine or parts of the paper that have nothing to do with, gasp, politics or the war. I like to read about food, music, film, art and yes, people.
And, I'll zip it after this, but I think Neal Justin has a point. We on the left are just as guilty as those on the right of talking to our own kind and not listening to others. It makes us feel good to be among people who think like we do. And of course, the difference between us and those on the right is, we're right. As in, correct.