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This is why I no longer watch CBS

Monday, October 2, 2006
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Ever since CBS changed the format of the CBS Evening News, I have stopped watching it, ending a tradition that has lasted for as long as I could remember. Granted, television news in general is not particularly useful as I get most of my news from print and from the Internet, but it does make evening meals less boring.

My newfound dislike of CBS is not so much that they replaced the stately Bob Schieffer with an overly casual Katie Couric (call be old-fashioned, but "Hi, everyone!" is not an appropriate way to start the an evening news broadcast) (I suspect that her casual style may be, at least in part, the result of marching orders from network executives). The producers at CBS have watered the show down, off-loaded in-depth coverage to their website, reduced the amount of time spent on hard news, and increased the amount of time on trivial fluff stories. The final straw that drove me away came when the other two networks gave generous airtime to a government report saying that the war in Iraq has made us less safe while CBS brushed it aside.

Anyway, a friend described to me over instant messaging the contents of tonight's CBS "Free Speech" segment. Apparently, because of today's school shootings, they changed the segment to one prepared in the last minute and featuring a Columbine dad who accused abortion and moral decay for school shootings. Before I go any further, I should note that I am a staunch believer in free speech, and I have no problem with CBS giving airtime to people like the guest that they had on today or even Rush Limbaugh. What I do have a problem with is the format of the CBS "Free Speech" segment. Free speech is not something that exists in vacuum and its value derives from being a part of the marketplace of ideas. While censoring or shutting someone up is totally unacceptable no matter how offensive their speech is, it is equally unacceptable to hand someone a megaphone and let them speak about a controversial topic without giving anyone else a chance to present a rebuttal, which is what the CBS Evening News does. It gives Rush Limbaugh a soapbox (as if the one he already has isn't big enough), which is fine, but they have nobody to rebut him, to cross-examine him, or to challenge him. And in fairness, it is equally unacceptable when CBS gives a free megaphone to an leftist without a counterbalance (though I don't think that any of the guests that they have had have been as far from center--in either direction--as Rush).

In any case, what was frustrating about tonight's show is that it would appear that the speaker is ignorant of the circumstances surrounding today's shooting. This was done in Amish country by a local man (although he himself was not Amish, this is nevertheless a very traditional and conservative region); this was not some godless urban public school. So FOX News Junior CBS executives, in their desire to continue their "Free Speech" segment and to also offer something that corresponds with today's "tragedy theme", hurriedly picked out some guy who ends up spouting a lot of nonsense colored by personal anger and, contrary to what free speech is really about, they do this without offering any sort of additional speech to counterbalance his. And the tragedy of all this is what this man articulated on national TV an indictment against godlessness while today's incident was, if anything, an indictment against the very sort of stifling and social conservatism that he was advocating. Yep, CBS has jumped the shark.

This entry was edited on 2006/10/02 at 21:09:23 GMT -0400.

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