Anne Applebaum's Sept. 22 column on the irrelevance of network television news was fun to read. Yet her argument has a number of holes in it, not the least of which is the implication that print journalism somehow rises above it all.
At a time when polls consistently show television and the Internet to be the most popular and trusted venues for information, it is newspapers that are most worried about their survival, and it is surprising that she failed to mention this.
Also bothersome is her ignorance of the past. It's true that there was never a golden age for TV news, as there has never been one for the daily press. But you don't have to be a historian (or a septuagenarian) to know that television has shone in its coverage of certain events and issues. Edward R. Murrow's principled confrontation with Joe McCarthy was one example. The networks' marathon coverage in the days after Sept. 11 was another.
News from television is no less relevant than that from newspapers. Text-wise, broadcast journalism may be more superficial -- that's the nature of the beast -- but by virtue of its sound and pictures, broadcast journalism does something no print story could: It shows us. Despite its weaknesses, the medium will endure because of its immediacy to people and events. While we can now get news exclusively from our computers, selecting only the video and graphics we're interested in, many of us also depend on succinct reports that have already sorted through the glorious clutter of reality. Niche political and opinion news is not the only possible future for journalism. Nor is that sort of specialization incompatible with programs and publications for general audiences.
Will one scandal kill off CBS and the other networks? Of course not. Jayson Blair did not do in the New York Times. Both scandals hurt the credibility of those organizations and their industries. But the news media will survive those and other fiascos for the same reason the presidency survives moments of idiocy: We continue to need those institutions.
-- Joe Hayden
The writer teaches journalism at the University of Memphis.