The Problem With Pundits

A good example over the weekend of why everybody hates TV news pundits:

The pundits spent several days complaining that The Most Important VP Candidate Ever wouldn’t sit down with reporters to answer questions. Nothing better sums up the disconnect between how TV pundits see themselves and how the real world sees them. They think they’re the hard-hitting watchdogs who hold candidates’ feet to the fire, grill them, and other heat metaphors. We know that they’re not very smart, that they’re highly deferential, and that their shows are basically game shows — the contestants (interviewees) can either “lose” by slipping up and saying something that makes them sound bad, or they can “win” by getting through the interview without any gaffes. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for this kind of interview, but what’s bizarre is that these pundits really do seem to have an inflated opinion of their own importance and seriousness.

This may help to explain why Fox News has been successful; it’s not just that it appeals to conservatives, it’s that it has fewer pretentions to seriousness than the other networks (okay, Brit Hume still thinks he’s a journalist, but that will pass eventually) and essentially styles itself as talk radio on TV. Whereas MSNBC still thinks that its coverage has to be “serious” — which is to say, bland — and winds up pleasing nobody at all.

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