John Steinbeck’s analysis of the nature of news at the height of the Cold War resonates still, drawing attention to the air-time and column inches given to punditry over reporting.
Sometimes watching ten minutes of a pundit-panel I wonder what I’ve heard that has given me a fresh perspective or insight, and why I’m not using my time more profitably. And watching the French equivalent, it’s astounding how many people are described as ‘politologues’. There are moments when I’d like to beg them for less comment and more context.
‘We were depressed, not so much by the news but by the handling of it. For news is no longer news, at last that part of it which draws the most attention. News has become a matter of punditry. A man sitting at a desk in Washington or New York reads the cables and rearranges them to fit his own mental pattern and his by-line. What we often read as news now is not news at all but the opinion of one of half a dozen pundits as to what that news means.’
Source: John Steinbeck, A Russian Journal, with photographs by Robert Capa (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1999 (1948)), p. 3
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