June 8, 2016
I sat last night, and watched in disbelief as MSNBC and other news outlets disenfranchised millions of voters by announcing Hillary Clinton as the presumptive nominee for the Democratic Presidential Party. This election season has given pause to thinking Americans. The system is broken. We must do something to bring this democracy back into balance.
Don’t get me wrong. I am a Hillary supporter. I was pretty sure she was going to win. Those who had been doing the math expected this as the final outcome. But to call it before millions have even had the opportunity to cast their vote is a total overreach on the part of the media.
This last turn of events is only one in a long list of perversions to the election process that, I believe, is fueled by the media and threatens our very freedom. First there was the 11-ring circus that was the Republican Primary where the multiplicity of voices gave rise to the carnival barker that is Donald Trump.
Had the Republicans been able to field an array of qualified candidates who intelligently debated the serious issues that face our country, we might have gotten a serious presidential contender that offered a realistic alternative to the Democratic nominee. Instead, we got a presidential primary reality series orchestrated by a television personality whose arrogance is superseded only by his proclivity to lie and misrepresent both himself and his opponents. This was facilitated by the media who used the entertainment value of a Donald Trump candidacy to boost ratings, with little thought given to the impact of this free coverage on the democratic process. No other candidate could have afforded to buy the time that was freely given to Trump to espouse his stupidity, hatred, bigotry and racism, which unfortunately, was embraced by millions of Republicans.
For ratings, the media allowed Trump to suck up all the air in the room, leaving no space for thoughtful, meaningful debate. Each news day has been dominated by his most recent outrageous antics, with few media questioning either the veracity or the news worthiness of his statements. Now, in the 11th hour, some media have stepped up to challenge Trump, but it is too little, too late.
And then there is the Democratic Primary. Neither Bernie nor Hillary has gotten much attention, until now. Oh, there was momentary coverage when someone attacked Hillary for this, that or the other. Bernie got some airtime when he claimed unfairness in the Democratic Party Primary process, but for the most part, neither has received much media play as it relates to their basic platform.
For the media, it is all about personality and perception…seldom about substance. If it is not about Benghazi, emails or Bill—if it doesn’t involve raging against the system or millennials who are disenchanted with the status quo, then it’s just not going to get airtime. Media coverage has focused on what separates us, what vexes us rather than issues that will impact our future and determine our path in a world facing many serious challenges.
Our nation must address issues associated with global warming, nuclear threats, social unrest, aging seniors, childcare, equality for women, minorities and others outside social norms. We have no time for “must see TV.”
The freedoms given the media were provided to ensure the free exchange of ideas, a fundamental tenet of a free society. As one trained as a journalist, I understand the sacred nature of this provision in our Constitution. But what the modern day media has done with the freedoms afforded it by our Constitution is nothing short of sacrilegious.
I certainly fear government intrusion into the inner workings of the media. But somehow, someone must determine what is true journalism and what is entertainment. It is, I believe, unethical for the media to cause millions of Americans to feel that their votes are irrelevant. When ratings become more important than democracy…when being the first to break a story is more important than the impact that breaking news will have on millions of Americans, it appears to me that the media have fallen short of the lofty expectations of our Founding Fathers.
In journalism school they taught us that there were some situations where it was not alright to speak. We don’t generally print the names of rape victims, or children involved in crimes. We don’t broadcast the name of a murder or accident victim before the family is notified. We don’t yell “fire” in a crowded theater.
Isn’t that what happened last night? Could this announcement not have waited until the polls closed today? Of course it could, but not if you wanted to be first.
It is my prayer that those states casting their ballots today will not be deterred by media whose desire for ratings is the sum total of what they have become. I hope that voters cast their ballots despite the unethical, ratings hungry behavior of some media. Every vote counts, regardless of what the media says. It must for our democracy to stand.