Salon’s Hack List highlights what’s wrong with today’s political press

Mark Halperin cashes a paycheck for squandering his powerful platform at Time magazine

Salon magazine’s prolific Alex Pareene has finally rolled out
2011’s 20 awfulest political journalists, giving this year’s top honors to Time magazine’s Mark Halperin, calling him “both fixated solely on the horse race and also uniquely bad at analyzing the horse race.”

Halperin is the prototype of the “objective” journalist who prides himself on refusing to comment on anything he sees. Race baiting? Distortions? Outright falsehoods? Let’s instead look at those recent poll numbers that show Ron Paul rising in Iowa.

By treating politics as a sporting event rather than as a contest of ideas with consequences, Halperin squanders the opportunity to use his powerful platform at Time magazine and on MSNBC’s Morning Joe to promote the kind of informed discussion that could make voting more than a tribal exercise in doing what it takes so our team wins. The only time Halperin displayed something resembling passion was the time on Morning Joe that he called Obama a “dick.”

I was actually hoping that the top-of-the-bottom slot would be awarded to Erin Burnett, the latest anchor to fill the ever-changing musical chair in CNN’s unstable 7 p.m. time slot. Pareene awarded her fourth place, acknowledging her spectacularly trivial and patronizing coverage of Occupy Wall Street as her hackiest moment.

Is this relentlessly perky free-market Barbie manufactured by CNBC by way of Goldman Sachs the future face of broadcast news? Heaven help us.

While I was bemoaning the current state of political punditry in the United States, I happened to pick up the year-end double issue of Rolling Stone. In addition to the stellar reporting of Matt Taibbi and Tim Dickinson, the issue featured excerpted quotes from an interview with former NASA scientist Jim Hansen, who has been relentless in trying to persuade the mainstream media to cover climate change as something other than a manufactured controversy. Here’s a few sentences on Obama’s record:

He allowed the usual cast of characters to carry the ball, and they came up with the cockamamie scheme called cap and trade with offsets, in which big banks would be the biggest winners and Big Coal and Big Oil and Big Utilities all were given their share. And the public would get screwed. Energy prices would go up, and there would be almost no impact on solving the climate problem. By staying disengaged, Obama completely blew the chance to really be a great president. He could have changed history.”

The problem isn’t just the voices we hear but those we don’t hear or don’t hear enough of – Jim Hansen, Naomi Klein, Cornel West, Barbara Ehrenreich. Chomsky is frequently featured in the European press, but he says that he often finds himself disinvited on those rare occasions he is offered a platform, even by supposedly progressive news outlets such as PBS. Media moguls often allow incendiary critiques fromthe right, but not the left. (So long, Keith Olbermann.)

The opportunity that the Internet provides us in circumventing commercial media could allow the Occupy movement to create a new online citizen journalism based on providing the 99% the news it wants and needs. Email me at lansingonline AT with your ideas and input into how this new media should function.


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