I was at prayer the other day and Jeff Greenfield popped into my head. This is the Jeff Greenfield who was a speechwriter for Bobby Kennedy, wrote some fine political books, and was a fairly balanced though liberal political commentator for many years on ABC News. Taking this as an impulse of the Holy Spirit, I fired up Wikipedia on my Blackberry and within seconds discovered that, since 2007, he has been a political commentator on CBS News. There you have it. Greenfield might as well be dead to me. I don’t watch CBS News anymore.
I used to love the network news. One of my first childhood memories was watching it with my father. Among my very first political memories is asking him a question about foreign aid, which Walter Cronkite had just reported on.
In young adulthood, I tried to keep up with everything. I preferred Brokaw and Jennings to Rather, but I would watch whatever was on: This Week with David Brinkley, Washington Week in Review, and Meet the Press. I even remember Meet the Press with Lawrence Spivak. I watched Nightline every evening after the Iranian hostage crisis. I hardly ever missed 60 Minutes.
It wasn’t just television news, either. I was a print junkie, too. I read Time and Newsweek religiously, the Economist, GQ, Esquire, the New Yorker, the Atlantic Monthly, and sometimes Rolling Stone. I poured over the New York Times, and the New York Post every day for more than twenty years. I still read one of them, and now the Washington Post. All of these and many more.
But this is all now mostly gone for me. I wish I still read the New Yorker, the Atlantic, and the Economist, but I don’t and I likely won’t. With age and maturity, you fall way from GQ and Esquire.
Beyond that, I have not watched a network news program for at least twenty years and am darned happy about it. Except in a dentist office, I have not cracked Time or Newsweek over the same period. What those guys think about anything has lost any allure for me. Who cares – even a little – what Brian Williams thinks about anything? Who is the editor of Time magazine now anyway?
The beginning of my drift has to have been political. I remember even now with disgust how Peter Jennings called the 1994 GOP takeover of the House a national temper tantrum by ordinary American voters, or something of the sort. That was the year the news media invented the “angry white male,” whom it did not seek to understand, but to ridicule. Jennings, if memory serves, was also visibly upset that the Soviet-allied Sandinistas, yes them, lost their national elections in Nicaragua.
But it wasn’t just politics that put me off. It was the idea that these guys thought they could set the agenda for the whole country. For a time, they did – but I came to resent it, particularly as issues I cared about never seemed important enough for them to think them even worthy of notice,
I haven’t stopped following the news. I probably follow more and varied news stories now than ever. I still read three, sometimes four newspaper a day. Naturally, I watch a lot of FOX News, O’Reilly at night, sometimes Hannity, sometimes even Beck.
Much to my wife’s consternation, I also dip into the other side as well: Matthews, Olbermann, and Maddow on MSNBC even though MSNBC’s Dylan Ratigan called my wife a liar to her face when she was a guest on his show. I also listen to talk radio but mostly of the now-defunct Air America type, that is to say, the hard-left variety. These folks are different than the blowhards on the network news. The bias of the radio blowhards is right out there, no shilly-shallying about it, and unlike the networks and newsweeklies, no lying about it.
And so what about the New York Times? I have read the NYT every day since July 5, 1982, more than 10,000 days. Despite everything they do that’s infuriating, I don’t at bottom really care about it much anymore. I look at every page, read some headlines, but almost never read it closely. The only time in the last quarter century I have ever really enjoyed what they were publishing was when social and art critic Hilton Kramer wrote a monthly column in the New York Post taking apart the Arts section of the Times. It was great fun.
Still, it’s a hard habit to break. I want to though. Why? Because the New York Times hates my mom, my Church – especially our gentle pope – and me, and I will no longer look past that. My little old mother is a conservative. She’s a tea-party patriot. And she’s harmless, but to the Times she is a threat to the Republic. I share her political views and I am a faithful Catholic to boot. Even a cursory look at the pages of the Gray Lady and you know that she hates us. I mean really hates us.
Years ago, when I quit the magazine publishing business, it took me several years to stop reading the advertising column in the New York Times. Still, eventually, I did. It was just a habit. All habits can be broken. The country ought to give up this bad habit as it has given up smoking. The effects are far more toxic for our personal and national health.