Too many years ago to count now, back when the studio we did practice broadcasts in was still black & white (seriously, though there was really no excuse for that in 1980), there was a word the professors used a lot at the USC School of Journalism: Objectivity.
That word, of course, has become merely a theoretical concept as far as usage in the real world of modern reporting.
While there is a place for activist journalism, especially in cases of human rights, it seems that the days of the reporter looking for "just the facts" is gone. My most liberal friends get their news from the Huffington Post as if were the Wall Street Journal. And my most conservative friends will quote Rush Limbaugh and wonder why they aren't taken seriously in the debate by the other side (and for that matter, the middle).
Civil discourse is dead in most circles. People with opposing views stop conversing with people who would otherwise be close friends, focusing on the 10 percent of things on which they disagree instead of the 90 percent where they do.
The new economics of media make the monetization of content easier with highly identifiable audiences, so the advertisers target specific media which can deliver a target demographic to their products, which generally means editorial has to follow the money in order to afford to keep their jobs. Just look at the stereotypes of Fox News and MSNBC? Want conservative leaning news, turn to Fox. Want to keep trying to blame everything on George W. Bush? Put on MSNBC (I'd actually argue that Fox is the far more objective of the two, and probably only leans as far right as CNN does left, but that's another article).
So where does this leave us? More airtime was devoted to Rep. Joe Wilson's tacky outburst than thoughtful analysis of Obama's speech. Remember, Wilson lost it when the President was stating that "illegal aliens will not be covered in this plan." Well, yeah, that's probably correct in the tradition of Bill Clinton saying "It depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is." The illegals won't be covered in the plan, just as they aren't covered now, but we'll still be paying for them, because they use the emergency rooms as Free Clinics.
So was President Obama lying, or parsing? And whichever, is that less important that one inappropriate outburst by a congressman whose BS meter boiled over?
And for those who will immediately dismiss me as being one of those people who want the status quo, you're completely wrong. I absolutely want the system reformed. I just want it done in a way that doesn't take the nation further toward economic ruin. I don't want people to say we should accept the Obama plan because "Bush got us into a war."
Two wrongs still don't make a right.
Oh, and why did I bring up that journalism school reference at the beginning? The USC School of Journalism is now part of the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, and is still one of the finest schools of its type in the nation. The other Annenberg School, at the University of Pennsylvania and also a fine institution, runs FactCheck.org, which everyone should look to for objective analysis before they make their latest partisan diatribe. They do a great job of looking at both sides.
Here's their analysis of the health care address: http://www.factcheck.org/2009/09/obamas-health-care-speech/
Shock of shocks! There are issues upon which each side is right, and each side is wrong. That's what you get when the analysis is actually objective.
Not that it matters, because most the front pages were filled with important stories like Kanye West dissing Taylor Swift and Serena Williams cussing out a line judge. My objective analysis is that those stories will not affect our futures.