Clearly, you could accuse President Barack Obama of misunderstanding the mood of the electorate on whether the U.S. should use force in Syria. The president failed to anticipate the nation's reluctance to get involved in a war in a third country so far from our shores. Enough is enough, it was as if people wanted to tell him.
But did the U.S. media get it wrong, too? It's arguable. The media may have felt flummoxed during the Syrian debate. Remember, journalists fell under the spell a decade ago of George W. Bush's claims of weapons of mass destructions (WMDs). It's possible that the reporters and editorial writers were uneasy or reluctant to take a stand in judging what the American people were thinking about Syria.
It's a tough situation, to be sure.
If journalists went out on a limb, they risked being wrong, which nobody likes to be either in print or on television.
So, why, then, do so many commentators and pundits give strong opinions? The answer is simple: the public expects, or even demands, such behavior. We live in a generation of punditry, not investigative reporting.
Newspaper readers and TV watchers want the journalism outlets to offer strong opinions, or at the very least, present forums for lively debate. It's obvious why this approach is also embraced by TV networks: because it is cheap to do. It costs much less money to buy a few chairs for pundits to sit in than it does to send a film crew to Syria.
You'd be kidding yourself if you thought that finances didn't matter to cost-conscious TV news executives. It matters in real life and it even makes a difference on CNN's show "The Newsroom"!
If journalists wanted to understand better what the nation is thinking about any major, hot-button issue — whether it happens to be Syria or Obamacare or immigration or voters' rights — all they have to do is get out of their offices and do some good, old-fashioned shoe-leather reporting. Then, they can go on TV and tell the world what they have learned.
Jon Friedman writes the Media Matrix blog for Indiewire.com. He is also the author of "Forget About Today: Bob Dylan's Genius for (Re)Invention, Shunning the Naysayers, and Creating a Personal Revolution." Read more reports from Jon Friedman — Click Here Now.
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