Big American media companies largely serve up crap in the guise of news. I don’t make that point nearly as eloquently as this writer for the BBC who looks across the pond and sees very little real journalism in American television news.

His starting point is the new movie Good Night and Good Luck which focuses on Edward R. Murrow and his use of television to reveal the abuses to civil liberties brought about by Senator Joseph McCarthy’s anti-communist witch hunts in the 50’s.

The column is a brief but good summary of the history portrayed in the film. But what makes it worth reading is the comparison of the commitment to journalism made by the television networks of that era and whatever we have now.

Today in America newspaper television critics regularly take up Murrow’s theme of collapsing standards, adopting his mordant style, but most of television reporters, like the TV bosses themselves, succumb to the tyranny of numbers.

The eye on the short-run bottom line led to the closing of foreign bureaus, a decline of investigation, the rise of infotainment. The American public, getting most of its news from network television, came to have little sustained quality reporting to feed on. So by 2001, the rise of Islamic fundamentalism, the consequences of the Taleban’s capture of Afghanistan, the insidious growth of global anti-Americanism, came as terrible shock to its insulated world.

As much as "real" Americans hate hearing any sort of negative opinion coming from other countries, sometimes it’s just too accurate to ignore.

edward r. murrow, tv news, journalism