After spending a couple of hours (that I'll never get back) watching the kindergarten playground squabble that was the Republican presidential "debate" I ran across a more useful discussion between two members of the media who've been plenty involved over the years with campaign coverage.
The venue was the Bill O'Reilly show on Fox, a place where any number of presidential candidates, including Donald Trump, have put in appearances. His guest Wednesday night, however, was Ted Koppel, one of the best television interviewers of recent decades. Noting that he's interviewed Trump several times (including, fruitlessly, last night post-debate) he reasonably asked Koppel how he would interview him.
Koppel's answer was probably unexpected: "It’s irrelevant how I would do it. . . . You know who made it irrelevant? You did. You have changed the television landscape over the past 20 years. You took it from being objective and dull to subjective and entertaining. And in this current climate, it doesn’t matter what the interviewer asks him — Mr. Trump is gonna say whatever he wants to say, as outrageous as it may be.” Which is of course true, as anyone who's seen him in a Q&A format knows perfectly well.
When O'Reilly re-asked the question, Koppel expanded on his point: “the first way you do it is not in the interview — you do it by some reporting. It’s an old-fashioned concept but I think demonstrating who and what Mr. Trump is and what his policies really amount to is something you don’t do in an interview. He doesn’t answer the questions.”
Most of what passes for cable TV news is nothing more than giving air time to entertainers - and, as last night's presidential debate showed, that's even happening at the debate level. Actual, serious reporting is scarce. It costs more than simply doing talking heads, and viewers don't reward it enough.
It doesn't speak well for our ability to govern ourselves with anything resembling intelligence. -rs