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The Age of Opinion

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Fran Leibowitz has something to say about everything, including opinion. She told an audience that no one knows what news is nor do they care. Readers and listeners really want opinions so these days when you read a piece (or listen to a “news” program) you have to read three paragraphs down before you get to the news of what happened in Iraq.

If TV news were dinner, then we should expect a particular service order, unlike the heyday of celebrated, but dead journalists, when anchors would lead with fresh fish and close with dessert. These days that order is plainly reversed, the little cupcake with white frosting leads, followed thirty minutes later by baked chicken. Clearly outclassed, today’s face of journalism, whether espousing left, right or center values, must first master cherry-picking and the 140 word sound bite. Competition is tough as the news market shrinks in the age of microtechnology. Only the strongest primetime opinion survives.

MSNBC is managing to survive technology and the ratings game. Standing as the harbinger of all things left wing, partisan politics, Obama worship and most of all, full-as-a-tick blood opinions. It has found its voice, or rather voices, to fill precious opinion slots. In case you missed it, there is a new word sheriff in town and his name is Rev. Al Sharpton. Just as his name suggests, Sharpton is one sharp shooter who never misses when he shoots from the lip. I’m impressed and you should be too. MSNBC has taken a grassroots activist who has never seen the inside of a journalism class nor hurriedly traversed the Charles River bridge late for a physics study group at Harvard University, off the mean streets of New York City and put him on the primetime fast tract. What a pedigree! We are interested and so are right wing talkers who will save his every gaffe for future loops. He has been hired to replace Cenk Uygur in MSNBC’s 5:00PM slot. We think it’s official.

I, for one, have been calling for more diversity in anchors and guests on Sunday morning and prime time. I probably had some company who shared this view, however, black journalists are not too happy about the old bait-and-switch routine applied to the few available slots. I don’t blame them for seeing red in a black and white world watching nonjournalists gain ascendancy. That was one of my first thoughts: hmm, there are no black journalists here, then voilá we get Al Sharpton, who has been called a paid opinion hustler, among other things. He and others are pushing what has been the golden age of journalism right into silver tongued seconds.

But there is unofficial talk that Sharpton is no lone ranger. He has company, and that person is someone I’ve been watching for a long time. Michael Eric Dyson, author and well known wordsmith who trots out opinions faster than Silver, the Lone Ranger‘s horse. An erudite college professor, Dyson has authored numerous books on subjects from Martin Luther King to hip hop princes (which makes him at least a writer). This man never trips over his tongue but some folks struggle to understand his lingo and the often strong dose of philosophy that accompanies his orderly opinions. I can’t wait to hear his take on the current state of politics often filtered with true hip-hop verve.

And what would this hour of power be without a woman? Melissa Harris-Perry, writer and professor at Tulane University, has been popping up like dandelions in a hot rainy spring. She’s everywhere these days after making frequent appearances on the Rachel Maddow Show. I don’t think anyone could have assembled more staunch supporters of President Obama. They comprise the new insiders, as long as Obama is president. Then there are the outsiders: Tavis Smiley and Cornell West. They are undertaking a bus poverty tour and asking Obama not to change the subject. The subject is jobs, jobs for the black community who is hurting at 16 percent unemployment nationally. Shouting matches have been breaking out all over national television between authentic blacks and plantation politicians. Both terms have been around for decades, but in the age of opinion they take on new meaning in light of this country’s first “black” president.

Finally one must ask what are the network talk shows selling really? I mean does opinion sell? No, I think what sells is the unpredictable nature of opinion. News is predictable, it has a beginning, middle and an end; sometimes boring, sometimes surprising. But opinions are, well, endless and pointless, but somehow better.

Speaking of news, I hope to get an earful of news in the coming weeks. And not just word about who is leading in the latest GOP polls, but about present leadership or lack thereof. We know that there is certainly enough news to go around. Take your pick: there are the congressional hearings over what I call “Gungate” or who authored the Operation Fast and Furious debacle, the stock market crashes and the new approach to illegal immigration that makes rulings done on a case-by-case basis, whatever that is. Yes, the news horizon shines like a full moon from the rocker on my large front porch. And I can see backdoor amnesty sitting next to gungate, both hiding behind the jobless in America. It’s no wonder the opinion brokers will have their mouths full.

Until 2012, that is.

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About Heloise

  • The WJCL-TV Sales Manager told me this, “If it doesn’t sell beer or Fords, it doesn’t go on the air. Journalists like you are icing on the cake.” The station had turned down my exclusive interview with Jesse Jackson and pulled me off of a story about judicial corruption in a nearby town. Doing person on the street opinion interviews sold beer and Fords.

    I wish you had made more of your point about “the nation’s first ‘black’ president.”


  • Clever (and cleverly written) article, Heloise. We’ll all living in a fast-lane, aren’t we? (social media technologies, the internet) — so cutting to the chase is at premium. Who’s got the time to digest the news and form their own opinion if they can be spoon-fed instead?

    Are opinions “pointless,” as you say? Not if they’re liable to become prevalent so as to become “public.”

    Lastly, I don’t consider Obama and his supporters “leftist.” Do you?

  • Heloise

    Tommy, touche. I will save that for next time. Because it is a matter of opinion whether or not he is the first “black” president.

  • Heloise

    Roger what I should have said is that most pundit points are usually WRONG. They tend to score low on the crystal ball scale. That’s what I mean by pointless, or useless. But I was getting close to a thousand words and could not elaborate everywhere. LOL and thanks

  • In that case I agree with you. Most of ’em are off the mark. I do like Tavis, though, and Cornel West. They were interviewed a few days ago by Amy Goodman in connection with their anti-poverty drive. If you haven’t seen it, it’s in the archives (Democracy Now!) It’s worth watching.

  • Heloise

    I was looking for that thanks.

  • Heloise