Freedom of the press means little if audiences are trapped in bubbles

A free press won’t amount to squat as long as it has audiences who hear only what they want to hear, read only what their Facebook-sculpted algorithms tell them to read, and worship blissfully at the Church of Confirmation Bias.

It’s nice, I suppose, in this era of Trumpian Twitter bashing of the press, that journalists trumpet right back about bolstering freedom of the press, citing its absolutely necessity to the survival, let alone the maintenance, of democracy in the Republic.

google-bubbleIt’s nice, I suppose, that a satirical comedian hosts a “Not the White House Correspondents Association Dinner” (in prime time, no less) to, as she said, “celebrate the freedom of the press.” (She did this, of course, while occasionally mocking pack journalism and chiding CNN for not “setting free” its high-priced on-air talent to be journalists instead of entertainers).

It’s nice, I suppose, that the failing New York Times headlined the actual Donald-less White House correspondents’ dinner with us vs. them gusto: “For Journalists, Annual Dinner Serves Up Catharsis and Resolve.”

And it’s nice, I suppose, that the famed, once-young lions of an earlier Golden Age, Woodward and Bernstein, were trotted out at the latter dinner to extol the virtues of a free and vigilant press.

Continue reading

Nota Bene #115: RIP No. 32

“If you’re really pro-life, do me a favor—don’t lock arms and block medical clinics. If you’re so pro-life, lock arms and block cemeteries.” Who said it? Continue reading

Fox beats CNN in prime-time news, but so what?

CNN’s prime-time ratings — those hours between 7 and 11 p.m. that command premium advertising rates — have fallen sharply. CNN, reports The New York Times and MSNBC, now trails three of its principal competitors, Fox News Channel, MSNBC, and its in-house competitor, HLN (formerly Headline News).

CNN’s ratings in the prime 25-54 demographic fell 77 percent in the last 12 months. Finger-pointers and blame-gamers abound. The Times‘ Bill Carter calls the last-place performance of CNN’s “signature host” Anderson Cooper “alarming” at the 10 p.m. slot. Charles Warner of writes at HuffPo that Fox and MSNBC may have outbid CNN for favorable channel positions. Others, like Bill Gorman of, thinks CNN lost its substantial advantage gained from its political coverage from 2006 to 2008.

But seasoned TV pundits are missing a significant point lost in the blizzard of analyses of the cable news rating wars.
Continue reading