Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Capitalism Fails the News

By Bill Maher

At the White House Correspondents' Dinner, just about every media outlet was taking shit from the presenters about how often they got it wrong in these last few weeks. CNN, for its ridiculous and inaccurate coverage of the Boston bombings; Buzzfeed, for getting it all wrong too; MSNBC for being in the pocket of the White House; Fox News for being in the pocket of evil. The verdict was in, and it was that, other than Pete Williams and The Boston Globe, every traditional media outlet -- especially those on TV -- is running a sad rumor mill factory, obsessed with sensationalism, when they're not being partisan hacks shilling for their home team. And hey, enjoy the filet.

But here's what you didn't hear at the White House Correspondents' Dinner: "Something, something, Gwen Ifill. [Laughter] Something, something, Ray Suarez. [Hollering]" Because what everyone seems to be forgetting is that there's a great news outlet on TV that always gets it right: the PBS Newshour. And why? Because they're allowed to be a news organization. Because they're not chasing ratings with giant BREAKING NEWS graphics and Megyn Kelly's legs and segments about the day's funny web videos.

Back in the day, the network news broadcasts weren't designed to make money. They were a loss leader. Because people understood the difference between news and entertainment: one was something you needed to eat, and the other was dessert.

But then capitalism took over the news business. And since then, the news has gone down a downward slope of suckitude.

Hey, don't get me wrong -- capitalism is a great thing. When it comes to designing America a new ketchup bottle that sits upside down so all the ketchupy goodness has already moved right to the opening so that you can then squeeze it on to your fries and avoid all of that needless pounding on the bottom of the old glass ketchup bottles, capitalism is the way you want to go. Because capitalism gets you what you want, and at the lowest price.

But in a democracy, there's a difference between what you want -- my ketchup to come out of the bottle on cue -- and what you need, which is an informed citizenry.

Our problem isn't that we have capitalism and that we have democracy. It's that we think they're the same thing.


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