As Cable News Has Become More Polarized, the TV Networks Show the Real America

From a Wall Street Journal column by Stephen G. Smith headlined “The Cure for News Burnout”:

Have you watched network news lately? I had stopped more than 20 years ago. I was drawn away by the speed and heat of cable news. So were millions more, judging by the sharp audience declines at ABC, CBS, and NBC.

Then earlier this month, I caught part of a network newscast after hearing my sister was about to appear in a segment. I found myself oddly soothed, for reasons I didn’t quite understand.

Watching network newscasts the next evening was a revelation. They reported all the important stories, no matter how gloomy. Politics played a minor role. President Trump didn’t even appear on one program. . . .

Most of the newscasts took place at ground level. . . .Sprinkled amid the hardship were uplifting stories from the frontlines—doctors and nurses caring for the ill, truckers driving extra hours to bring vital supplies, an actor picking up the grocery-store tabs for seniors in Georgia and Louisiana.

What was most striking was how little time reporters and even anchors spent on screen. They put ordinary Americans on the air. Washington and Manhattan weren’t at center stage. The whole country was—Kentucky to Massachusetts, Michigan to Florida, Texas to Pennsylvania. It created a sense of unity, showing a series of communities struggling to survive these strange times.

I have nothing against the journalists on cable news. . . .They are fine professionals, and on breaking news and some regular newscasts hew to traditional standards of fairness. But as the U.S. has become polarized, so too have cable channels. . . .

The networks, as they’ve always done, offer a snapshot of the America—dare I say, the real America.

Mr. Smith is a former editor of National Journal and U.S. News and World Report and executive editor of Newsweek.


  1. Barnard Law Collier says

    Much enjoyed Mr. Smith’s story. My feelings are similar.

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