Popular Host vs. Solid Journalism

Thursday, September 1, 2011

What credentials are necessary to host a prime time cable political talk show? Byron Williams of the Oakland Tribune reports on cable news networks such as MSNBC, Fox News, and CNN are more focused on ratings than good journalism.

MSNBC’s hiring of activist Al Sharpton to host a prime time talk show has the media scene questioning what it really takes to host a show. Perhaps more prominently, it pulls a much more important question to the foreground: Are prime time cable news networks’ talk shows considered journalism?

Sharpton joins the ranks of other celebrities (term used loosely here) turned talk show host. Sarah Palin hosted “Real American Stories” on Fox News and Eliot Spitzer hosted “In the Arena” on CNN. Neither Palin nor Spitzer had much if any journalism experience prior to their becoming hosts.

What is more likely – that these celebrities were the most qualified and talented individuals for these positions or they are being used as names and faces to drive ratings? It appears obvious to me that the later of these is the case.

If ratings are what are most important to cable news networks, it is not possible to give good journalism its due diligence. Networks should be focused on finding and hiring hosts who live and breathe journalism such as Walter Cronkite and Edward R. Murrow. Is MSNBC providing us, the viewers, with "a fuller spectrum of news" with the hiring of Al Sharpton? When ratings are what are sought, it is we the people who lose out on solid journalism.

So what’s the solution? Just don’t watch.

Photo compliments of MSNBC.com


Megan Evans September 4, 2011 at 5:13 PM  

I wish I could just stop watching it! Unfortunately, I cannot. I do, however, strongly agree with the idea of investing in journalist who have invested their all into the field. It is one way to confirm that we are getting the best information possible from people who are the most qualified, not just the most famous. I do think it's great to get some "celebrity" input, and they also can help to draw people in who may not otherwise have taken notice. I do not, however, believe they should be the only source of information or the ones who solely help form our opinions.

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