Happy Wednesday, and welcome to another week of Take It or Leave It!
It's tempting to blame the current news culture on the explosion of cable TV and social media platforms, but the roots in America go back to at least the 19th century and the cutthroat days of newspaper publishing. In the late 1890s, Joseph Pulitzer, owner of the New York World, and William Randolph Hearst, owner of the Journal, built a legendary rivalry. Hearst had made a huge success out of the San Francisco Examiner before moving to New York to do the same with the Journal. The competition between these two men, each seeking to out-do the other, helped plant the seeds for the sensationalism we see in the media today.
I'm not sure Pulitzer and Hearst could even have conceived of today's media environment. Never before has it been so easy to obtain and consume news that totally agrees with our own political and ideological leanings. I've heard it said that we curate our media intake, and I couldn't agree more. Call them bubbles or silos or echo chambers, but the result is the same: we ingest only what we want to ingest.
But this week, I poked my head out of my silo and set my bleary, world-weary eyes on Fox News.
Yes, that Fox News.
It was a long week.
And here's the thing: I have confirmed that I don't enjoy the on-air personalities and ideologies of Fox News. I disagreed with quite a lot that was said and was always relieved when I came across a news story that bordered on neutral. Vaping illnesses, say, or the flu. I think we can all agree that those things aren't wonderful.
But my big epiphany was the realization that somewhere, my doppelganger was gnashing her teeth at the sight of Anderson Cooper, disagreeing as vehemently with the news from the left as I do with the news from the right. Our media culture actively promotes the us vs. them mentality, and that is just not healthy for any of us. I know the stakes are high, and hopefully we're all trying to do what we think is right, not merely what feels habitual. But as long as ratings still matter, I don't know if that's possible.
My brief dalliance with Fox News is a definite Leave It. And it rather put me off of cable news in general, especially in these frenetic times leading up to an election year.