Brendan Polmer: Is the media pimping out politics?

A few days ago, MSNBC co-anchor David Shuster accidentally called Chelsea Clinton a ho for her mama’s presidential campaign. Referring to the fact that Chelsea was calling up celebrities and super delegates on the phone, asking them to support her mother’s campaign, Shuster said, “Doesn’t it seem like Chelsea’s sort of being pimped out in some weird sort of way?”

Nice. This is exactly why I love cable news! Not for the actual news content – when I want news, I use the Internet machine to get a wide range of stories from varying sources. But if I’m looking for sensational locker-room talk, I turn to CNN, FOX and MSNBC.

Needless to say, Shuster’s remarks severely pissed-off Hillary Clinton, who has since been threatening the network that she may not appear on any more of their hosted debates. Shuster, who is now suspended, apologized – twice, actually – telling viewers the next day, “last night, I used a phrase – some slang about her efforts…[T]o the extent that people feel I was being pejorative, I apologize for that. I should have seen that people might view it that way, and for that, then I’m sorry.”

Way to go, David!

There’s still so much election coverage – I can’t wait to see what comes out of these talking-heads’ mouths in the months to come. Will Bill O’Reilly accidentally say the N-word? Will Lou Dobbs blame his chronic diarrhea on bad Mexican food that upset his stomach?

I’ll admit, these last three months have been pretty rough on my television viewing, what with the writers’ strike and all. But I suppose that even if my favorite shows were still fresh and on the air, I’d still be glued to these cable conglomerates during this presidential primary season. This year’s election coverage has certainly received higher ratings than any other in quite a long time, most likely due to the fact that there seems to be so much at stake and also because there isn’t an incumbent running for reelection.

Yet the question remains: why do Americans continue to trust these morons? The problem, I think, is that many Americans aren’t able to tell the difference between what’s news and what’s opinion – both of which are mixed on-air with a sugarcoated blend of oozing sensationalism and flashy graphics. In fact, a simple search for any cable news personality on Media Matters’ Web site – a non-profit group based in D.C. that monitors conservative misinformation in the U.S. media – comes up with dozens of articles exposing instances of editorial opinion inserted into what are supposed to be objective, transparent news stories.

And here’s the kicker – it’s not just FOX news, and it’s not just conservative slants.

As noted in what may be the bible of journalism standards and practices, “The Elements of Journalism” by Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel, journalism’s first obligation is to the truth, and its primary purpose is to provide citizens with the information they need to be free and self-governing. Unfortunately, other factors often come into play that blur this definition – things like advertisers, the race for ratings and the current state of Brittney Spears’ mental health, of course.

It’s no wonder that so many people turn to the Daily Show and Colbert Report to get their news – at least they admit that they’re illegitimate news sources.

I’m not saying necessarily that we shouldn’t trust cable news outlets – they are, after all, the first place we often turn to when we want to watch instant election results or if there is breaking news (be it death, destruction or celebrity gossip.) But it’s important that we be aware of the fact that a nice chunk of it is crap.

I’m going to keep watching, anyway. I can’t wait to find out who the next political prostitute is. Surely it’s not Lou Dobbs, Tucker Carlson, Bill O’Reily, David Shuster or Sean Hannity – (they’re the pimps, right?)

The writer, a senior majoring in journalism, is a Hatchet columnist and arts editor.

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