The Problem With Pundits


Once upon a time, the news was boring.

People tuned in, got their news, then tuned out and went about their lives.

Edward R. Murrow, Journalist

It was the news, after all. It provided a simple, necessary service.  It told you what was happening in the world.  People listened, watched, or read, then that was it. Facts are and ever have been rather boring.

Then one day a man named Bill O’Riley decided to do something different with his news show. He decided to give his opinion on the news. This was not something new. Journalists had put their opinions into the news for a long time…in editorials.  People gave their opinion on the news all the time, like Rush Limbaugh and Howard Stern, but they didn’t claim to be journalists.  It was just entertainment after all.  The news was serious business.  Sometimes, in a very rare case, a journalist would put their integrity and career on the line like Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite, to speak out against something they felt was wrong. But it was extremely rare

Bill O’Riley, the first pundit


Bill O’Riley was different, he decided to give his opinion on every bit of news he reported on. Thus, the first modern pundit was born. It was a ratings hit. People flocked to watch his show, to listen to someone who gave more than just the facts. Some thought he was right.  Some thought he was wrong.  Some thought he was funny.  Others were shocked and angry. The reactions of his viewers went though the roof and all over the place. And more and more people watched his show. The news became entertaining.  A new word was created: “infotainment.”

Since Bill O’Riley was conservative, he gave conservative opinions. Some liberals didn’t like that. One liberal, Keith Olbermann really didn’t like that. He started giving his opinion on every bit of news he reported on as well. His network encouraged him. After all, wasn’t Bill O’Riley’s show the toast of his network? Wasn’t he bringing in more ratings and viewers to his network? Why not make a liberal counterpart to get some of that infotainment money and give the “correct” opinion?

Keith Olbermann, the second pundit

So Keith Olbermann was free to give his opinion on the news, and boy did he. He, too, became popular and famous.  After all, it was infotainment.

That left the other journalists all across the political spectrum talking. Why shouldn’t they give their opinion on the news too? It drove ratings up, which was good for their company. It drove their popularity up which was good for their careers. It got people interested in the news, which was definitely good for the news in general, right?

The news was boring, you see. Giving your opinion on it made it entertaining. Entertaining meant more people would tune in and more people would be informed, right?

So all the other journalists started giving their opinion as well. But the thing about opinions are that they are not facts. They’re opinions. They could be wrong. They could not take into account all the facts. They could suppress facts. They could spin facts into a narrative.

…Gave rise to a sea of pundits.

And so the news stopped being boring. Because it stopped being news.
It became someone else’s opinion…and pesky things like facts only existed now to support the opinion.  If they didn’t support the opinion, then, well, clearly these weren’t facts at all.  After all, they flew in the face of the Truth!

And now the people complain about fake news.  The people do not know whether the news they’re getting is real or fake.  The people believe in the opinions given to them by whatever pundits resonate with them and disregard all others.

And the people did not live happily ever after.