The forty-fifth Democratic National Convention is over. It featured
some dramatic moments, and fine speech-making. But, unfortunately, there was also a surplus of what I would call pseudo-journalists—the pundits who predict and bloviate and act as though they know what’s in the minds of the candidates and their strategists.
I yearn for the good old days of Walter Cronkite and Huntley and
Brinkley. Walter took as his mission to inform the public, not impress people with his brilliance or wit.
We had a professor at Columbia named Roscoe Ellard who told us, “Facts are beautiful things. You just let them hang out there like clothes on a line—they’ll tell your story.”
The members of the punditocracy are not content with such a modest role. Some behave as though they’re the story, not Obama or Biden, McCain or Palin. A major party for the first time nominated an African-American for president. This was history. It would seem to be story enough. If our responsibility is to relate stories, what more do we need?
The opinionators clamored for our attention at this convention. At one point they even peddled a false rumor that Hillary Clinton supporters might be planning a major protest on the convention floor. It wasn’t true. But it kept the yackkety-yackers going for a few days. The beauty of this kind of phony story is that you can get a lot of mileage out of it—first, you spread it around and then devote a day or two to knocking it down.
I spent a lot of time with the New York delegation. If Hilliaryites were plotting a last-ditch insurrection against Obama, it would have been obvious. It wasn’t. Indeed, it was clear that Hillary supporters were planning no such thing. As Congressman Jerrold Nadler of Manhattan, an avid Clinton backer, put it: “I’d rather have nominated Hillary but the welfare of the nation now demands we work for Obama.”
Could not one of those yackers left his lofty perch and actually
talked to some Clinton delegates on the floor?
Alessandra Stanley of The New York Times, said: “Anchors at conventions used to serve as omniscient narrators; at this convention, they mostly served as human V-chips blocking live speeches with their own palaver and predictions.”
Yes, I yearn for the good old days when John Chancellor and other
floor reporters tried skillfully to get the real story. At this
convention we had great visual effects, including a real fireworks
display after Obama had delivered his verbal fireworks, but not so long ago there was suspense. Now it’s a choreographed spectacle, an infomercial.
The campaign strategists design it. Journalists are at their mercy.
The bloviators enjoy getting the material.