- The Washington Times - Monday, August 25, 2014

NBC’s “Meet the Press” is a historic broadcast entity no matter who’s hosting it. The show has been on the air for 57 years, is the longest running TV series in history and has ensured the appeal of talking heads remained a given in American culture. But there’s change afoot as even this venerable broadcast adjusts to a media marketplace that often appears to have neither rhyme, reason or revenue potential. Incoming moderator Chuck Todd himself told the network Monday, “I think the job for all of us, particularly in political reporting, is to demystify Washington for the American public, but then also try to translate the American public’s frustrations for out-of-touch Washington people.”

But wait. The dreaded casual chatter also comes into play.

“The show needs more edge. It needs to be consequential. I think the show had become a talking shop that raked over the cold embers of what had gone on the previous week. The one-on-one conversation belongs to a decade ago. We need more of a coffeehouse conversation,” NBC News President Deborah Turness told The New York Times, also on Monday.

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These comments reflect a persistent preoccupation in broadcast to attract a younger audience. But here is the reality. Americans — all Americans — crave clear, credible news and meaningful commentary in a dangerous age. Now may not be the time to launch a trendy overhaul before a public with the need to know. Provocative trimmings can amp up the news, but it must be included with extreme care and taste, like adding the nitro to the glycerine. For news content, viewers often prefer clarity and authenticity to packaging. Though the 18- to 54-year-old crowd has charisma, it is noteworthy that the current top-rated Sunday talk show is CBS’s “Face the Nation” — hosted by plainspoken veteran Bob Schieffer, age 77.

Coffeehouse style may up the “Meet the Press” audience ratings; it’s worth the experiment. But perhaps the network — in fact, all the networks — should simply review the basic “Code of Ethics” from the Society of Professional Journalists. Their prime directive: “Seek truth and report it: Journalists should be honest, fair and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting information.” And from the Radio Television Digital News Association’s Code of Ethics come’s this mantra: “Professional electronic journalists should operate as trustees of the public, seek the truth, report it fairly and with integrity and independence, and stand accountable for their actions”.


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There’s a “trumped-up call” for splashy national debates, points out Investors Business Daily columnist Andrew Malcolm. “Part of this phony need can be blamed on the current generation’s historical illiteracy. The United States has, in fact, been having national discussions about thousands of subjects since the day Thomas Jefferson delivered his final draft of the Declaration of Independence. Even before. In fact, one could make a strong argument that the United States itself is one long national discussion,” he proclaims.

“The latest national debate concerns the so-called militarization of local police forces, growing out of the intense media scrutiny of one local department in Ferguson, Missouri,” Mr. Malcolm continues, noting that he approves the idea of arming police with much firepower, but for global-minded applications.

“We’re in a new era now. The first 9/11 when jumbo jets became weapons should have taught us to think outside the box when imagining attacks on the homeland. Dirty bombs, Ebola. Sarin. Breast bombs. Gone is the age of a whistling Officer O’Riley walking his beat, checking that shop doors are locked,” he says. “The FBI has already arrested five ISIS supporters. Obama says these barbarians do not belong in the 21st century. But golly, sir, here they are anyway, time-traveling grim reapers from the intolerant middle ages. Because we don’t want them here doesn’t mean we can pretend they’re not. Prepare.”


The nation’s vexation with Congress could yield one interesting byproduct. Such disapproval is linked to higher voter turnout, reports Gallup analyst Jeffrey M. Jones, who says that in the last five midterm elections, voter turnout exceeded 40 percent when Congress’ approval rating was lousy. Forty one percent showed up at the polls in 2010, when the approval rating lingered at 21 percent. Congressional job approval is now at 13 percent, on pace to be the lowest on record in a midterm election year.

“Moreover, a near-record-low 19 percent of registered voters say most members of Congress deserve re-election,” Mr. Jones points out, adding that voters may want change — but they also may not agree on what that change must be.


“Even today, long after the mobs of protesters have left the capitol in Madison, we are practicing the prudent advice former governor Mitch Daniels gave me to never stop reforming. And the great news is that our reforms are working.”

— From a new epilogue to Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s book “Unintimidated,” originally published nine months ago, out in a revised paperback edition Tuesday. Mr. Walker is eager that the nation know his state budget surplus increased from $342 million to $1 billion, up from a $3.6 billion deficit before he took office.

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