LA Times TV critic Mary McNamara on the lazy Hollywood sensationalism that has been peddled as ‘journalism’ during this year’s presidential campaign:
SO MUCH has been said about the media’s handling of this campaign that it’s almost embarrassing to address the topic. But after watching hours, days, weeks of it on television, the cry of anguish cannot be suppressed: For the love of all that is holy, how did one of the most important presidential races in history, between two men who embody such disparate political possibilities, wind up looking like a montage sequence in a Will Ferrell movie?
“Bias” has been the watchword, but watching the nightly news loops, it seems less like bias than just plain old fear. Fear of missing the moment, of boring the viewers, of relying on the old-model thinking — who, what, when, why, where — while everyone yawns and returns their collective attention to their new iPhones.
“No, no, wait,” news outlets seem to shout like desperate screenwriters in a rapidly deteriorating pitch meeting. Nevermind those boring old proposed policies or the contradictory voting records or any of that stuff, look at this, you’re going to love it, it’s The Big Reveal.
McCain stutters and stumbles — is he experiencing age-related dementia? John Edwards flames out in scandal and Obama faces reporters in Hawaii wearing a polo shirt — has he grown too smug? Which is more significant — McCain’s negative, truth-twisting ads or Obama’s seemingly snooty refusal to address them?
For screenwriters, it’s the oldest trick in the book — the moment when the nice guy reveals his hideous temper or latent bigotry, when the silent distant hero gives way to a geyser of emotion. In one second, everything is made clear, events and intentions fall neatly into place and the viewer experiences the catharsis of discovered truth.
For journalists, it’s a bit trickier, since real villains rarely monologue and revelation usually requires time, patience and many lawyers.
But that doesn’t keep us from wishin’ and hopin’.
As they say, read the whole damn thing.