News Pornographer

So, you’re in TV? What’s a producer do?

We make sausage.

At least, that’s my usual answer when I vaguely tell people what I do. Unless they themselves are image peddlers, curiosity takes over and they start asking questions. I, of course, come off as aloof, intentionally obtuse or conceited…mostly because I’m hiding my underlying shame. This business is corrupted. Yes, it can be corrupt, but most people in the news game are not themselves corrupt. They are simply poisoned by the dynamic of this city…fear of questioned patriotism, fear of losing “access” or a job…or they just cannot envision the possibility of asking tough questions and digging into stories.

The WoB is calling the shots, and the news business sets up the camera. Political news is now about celebrity, about who’s f’ing who–either literally or figuratively, about who’s up and who’s down, who’s in or who’s out. It’s pornography. We simply shoot the tape, cut it together with very little artistry or imagination and just let the action between the people fill the screen. No need for a story arc, insightful writing or a point…the action itself is the point.

It makes sense, though, as the WoB has exerted itself. Hollywood Babylon or DC Babylon…the Whore will always find a home somewhere. Now that we’ve entered the post-news stage of our democracy…a time when appearances, propaganda and the hard sell take precedence over what I grew up knowing as journalism…there is very little left for the news business to do.

Let’s face it, the last time we saw great journalism was Iran-Contra. Lids were blown off, people were exposed and the nation shocked. But even that didn’t get very far. I guarantee that you still haven’t been told the full story. Since then? What about Iraqgate? Or the bogus, Enron-manufactured California energy crisis? Or Cheney’s Energy Commission–looking at maps of Iraqi oil fields before 9-11? And so on.

No, my friends, the TV news producer…the person who actually does the research and writing and gets the interviews…is hamstrung by the “get”–the insider term for the “big interview” that your competitors didn’t “get.” But, if you “get” Rumsfeld, Cheney, Bush…anyone, from either side…you are agreeing to NOT ask hard questions. It’s implicit in the deal. Believe me, I’ve seen it firsthand. Even at the “most respected hour of news on TV.” If you want to see this illustrated, turn on the BBC and watch them interview a politician. It’s vicious and interactive. It’s journalism.

No, now the news producer merely directs the videographer, fills in the blanks with the back and forth between the two sides and let’s us watch. It’s pure formula. Like so many adult videos, you know what’s coming. The story line is predetermined by those we are supposed to cover, the script written and re-written over again…nothing new. We produce an endless series of sexed-up remakes. Again, we’re just there to get you the images. It’s “reality television,” writ large. We are all voyeurs now.

Voyeurism, the basic theme of all pornography, is cheap, easy and safe. It’s what TV news is now–cheap, easy and safe. And that sounds like we’ve become…well, you know.

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