In the United States, in the space of little more than one week, the long-time heads of three major television news programs all stepped down, two of them fully of their own accord, and the other because of a political and journalistic scandal involving him and his brother, the recent former governor of New York.
The ins and outs of television news programming in the U.S. might seem on the surface to be a strange topic for a column that focuses by design on international affairs. But the case will be made here that the ongoing and worsening crisis in American democracy is, to some serious extent, a crisis of its journalism, too, and none more than television news, which is where most of the country’s citizens get their information.
Deserts are nutrition-poor environments, where the variety of life forms is restricted by a harsh climate and lack of irrigation. American television news has long been a kind of desert in many regards, but it has grown steadily narrower in focus and more predictable in its shallow left-right argumentation. And at least in terms of one of the leading networks—Fox News—it has also become the willing and even eager purveyor of known and often toxic falsehoods aimed at stoking the Republican Party’s political constituency.