Does Cable News Clarify Or Confuse The Public's Political Thinking?

Chris Matthews HardballThat was the provocative question three newscasters debated this morning at the cable industry’s annual convention on the eve of what MSNBC‘s Chris Matthews predicted will be “the most exciting political season we’ve ever had” — in part because of the growing importance of cable news. As you might imagine, the boisterous host of Hardball With Chris Matthews sucked up most of the oxygen in the Cable Show panel that also included CNN‘s John King and Univision‘s Maria Elena Salinas. She lamented that people “now have designer news. They want to listen to people they agree with.” That’s dangerous, she says, because “they don’t know the difference between a news person and a commentator.” King says that while “there’s nothing wrong with advocacy journalism, there’s nothing wrong with objective journalism, too.” But Matthews says viewers understand what they’re watching. For example, when Fox News bills itself as “fair and balanced,” its audience knows that the slogan is “ironic and fun loving and they’re in on the joke.” He contrasted today’s sharp-edged approach to the old days when “people like Andy Rooney were always with the (government’s) embedded thinking…. Without cable it’s just network thinking and embedded thinking which is dangerous for democracy.”

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