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Not a Lot of Debate Over How Readers Feel

October 18, 2000|HOWARD ROSENBERG

Something funny is going on, and I won't stand for it.

After years of meticulously crafting opinions that are summarily rejected and ridiculed, approval is a low blow that could destroy my reputation and career. Consider:

Of the 107 e-mails that responded to my Monday column taking TV reporters and pundits to task for redefining themselves as debate coaches ("Journalists' Blather Hits New Lows in Debates"), nearly all agreed with me.

This has to stop!

Television is now so overflowing with hot-air-spewing gasbags--otherwise known as pundits--you wonder why the EPA hasn't issued air quality warnings. The "journalists" are not much better, in that they are now not only injecting their own "tone" into the reporting, but very often don't want to bother to do basic follow-up to ensure their facts are straight.

As a friend of mine said recently, "Pundits are stupider than croutons, and they don't have the good grace of tasting good on salads."


Jamaica Plain, Mass.


I spent almost 30 years in television news, much of it at ABC News, and every four years working politics, sometimes running the network's operation at events like the Iowa caucuses or the conventions, or riding the plane with the candidates.

I think the cable shows have ruined political discourse. These shows appeal to about 5% of the voters--voters who have already decided whom they will support and take the view that those with a varying perspective are uneducated, unwashed and uninformed. The only difference between these shows and the WWF (World Wrestling Federation) is that the participants on the political shows dress up. Because these verbal slugfests wane to the shrillest partisans, there is no useful issues discussion.

The networks also have abandoned any insight. Now their political discussions focus on the cosmetics--smirks and sniffles. Or because the increasingly younger managers at the networks attempt to transfer the "theater" of cable shows to a few seconds of their broadcasts, we now get debates and advice from pundits whose chief credential is they once volunteered in a political campaign.


Palo Alto


Not only are the journalists and pundits offering tips and strategy moves, they are framing these debates as though they were the Stanley Cup playoffs: "Gore is in a slump and hasn't scored in his last two games." This kind of journalism is the most ridiculous I have ever seen.

Please, for the sake of the free world, don't let that bumbling fool, Bush, into the White House. He makes me feel amazed that he can even find a door to get out of the house in the morning.


Saint John, New Brunswick,



I read the "blather" you call an article. Obviously, it doesn't matter to you that Gore lies through his teeth every time he approaches a podium. Well, I'd rather have a president that mispronounces country names now and then over a pathological liar.

Gore panders to blacks, women, poor people, the elderly and anyone else he can get to fall for his Populism. He's even pandering to the Jews with his VP choice. So get real, Rosenberg.


Albany, N.Y.


Some years ago in my New York Observer column, I proposed that pundits be licensed, the licenses subject to a penalty point system (like driving) for fatuousness, groveling, gross error, etc. X points and your license is suspended; X+ and it's revoked. No Charlie Rose, no more rat-like Howard Kurtz. Actually, now that I think of it, instead of "points," why not "David Gergens"? Five Gergens and you're out!


Brooklyn, N.Y.


You could have saved space by not pointing out that you are a liberal Democrat. We already knew that because you are a media guy.




I agree with you 100% about the popularity contest we are witnessing during and after the debates. It's only about who can appear to be the most likable, most witty, most appealing to women, the "guy next door," instead of being the most articulate, informed and experienced in foreign and domestic affairs or--gasp--the most intellectually able person to fill this job! Can the average American voter be so dumb? I hope not.


Santa Barbara


The myopic pettiness of the press and "political experts" has astonished, infuriated and sickened me to no end. To assume that the American public, which is besieged with violence, illiteracy, lax environmental protection and an embarrassing health-care system, would care more about what color a person's tie is or how many times they sighed or laughed is more than insulting. It is frightening.


Los Angeles


This "Hollywood Squares" style of coverage (with the exception of PBS and perhaps CNN), which dotes only on the stupidity factor and lack of attention span of John Q. Public, is positively frightening. I sincerely hope Congress is up to the task of running the country. I feel the average voter can't tell the difference between Jerry Falwell and Jesse Ventura.


Spring Grove, Va.


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