Instead of reporting on the news, CBS News analyst Ted Koppel, formerly the host of ABC’s Nightline, has become the news recently. Talking with conservative radio and TV commentator Sean Hannity, the veteran journalist told Hannity that he is “bad for America.”
To be fair, Koppel did include “all these opinion shows” in a sort of blanket condemnation, though it should be noted he didn’t direct his accusation at Rachel Maddow or Chris Matthews. That’s relatively unsurprising given that Koppel has always been disgruntled about the success and fame of radio icon Rush Limbaugh.
In his version of how to make America great again, Koppel longs for a return to media homogeneity where journalists weren’t ideological, and instead just shared the news. The only problem I see with that is that such a time never existed in the first place. What Koppel refuses to acknowledge is that journalists have always trafficked in opinion – they just haven’t been honest about it or had any competition.
After all, was Ted appealing to facts or ideology when he blasted the Bush administration’s enhanced interrogation techniques in the War on Terror by going on BBC’s World News America and said it was the equivalent of, “saying that rape is an enhanced seduction technique?”
Was he appealing to facts or ideology when he opened Nightline by suggesting everyone knew that conservative Republicans felt, “threatened by smart, assertive, professional women?”
Look, I got as frustrated with Sean Hannity’s behavior and journalistic conduct over the course of the past year as anyone. I used to be a big fan of his but was often times turned off by what I saw as his dishonest dismissal of all of his fellow conservatives who had serious reservations about the candidacy of Donald Trump. When conservative commentators openly mock someone putting convictions and their personal godly conscience above party politics, it bothers me.
But that’s the whole point. I heard Sean Hannity, knew where he was coming from, and made my own decision whether to watch and listen or not. I didn’t need Ted Koppel or the government censoring, limiting, or “balancing” his remarks.
The power of media is inordinate in shaping and controlling people’s perceptions and beliefs. When you control the flow of information to people, you control people. And that’s why Ted Koppel is so dangerously wrong in what he’s saying. The best thing for Americans is precisely what the internet and new media has brought: options and competition.
The alternative is what existed before the era of Hannity – a handful of outlets, a few powerbrokers deciding what stories people would hear about, and a couple anchors who would transmit those stories with their own intrinsic political bias built in.
That, Ted Koppel, is what is bad for America.