Like pennies tossed into a fountain, here are some of my wishes for the media in 2009:
— New York Times columnist Gail Collins will further develop her own writing voice, which is insightful even if not particularly clever, and stop churning out pieces that are apt to seem like mediocre imitations of Maureen Dowd.
— In the blacked-out environs of his studio, TV host Charlie Rose will say less and think more before he interrupts guests on his nightly interview show. For good measure, Rose will actually find ways to include more progressive foreign-policy critics and fewer good old boys and girls of the establishment.
— On her NPR weekday interview program, “Fresh Air” host Terry Gross will no longer proceed as though a gamut of broadcast and cable TV shows are fascinating instances of artistic innovation in contemporary cultural life.
— At USA Today, there will be less emphasis on new twists in full-color statistical graphics and more emphasis on scrutinizing conventional wisdom rather than propagating it.
— The management of National Public Radio will give up on its lame excuses for canceling NPR’s daily program oriented toward African Americans, “News and Notes.” Recognizing that it’s beside the point to claim that more blacks listen to the drive-time news shows “All Things Considered” and “Morning Edition,” the NPR execs will reinstate “News and Notes” with an acknowledgment that true multiculturalism requires a truly diverse array of programs.
— PBS “NewsHour” host Jim Lehrer will stop yucking it up with in-house pundits David Brooks and Mark Shields, belatedly realizing that it doesn’t do much for viewers when three inside the-Beltway white guys keep sharing narrow perspectives in the context of their endless political horseracing.
— The New York Times will devote less ink to the tragic effects of the economic crisis on the wealthy and more to the catastrophic effects of the economic crisis on people who were lowincome even when the stock market was riding high.
— Larry King will give us a break from celebrity interviews more often and even allow his occasional moments of populist expression to become more frequent.
— Columnist and TV commentator Patrick Buchanan will concede defeat after his decades of white Christian jihad against multiculturalism in the United States. What’s more, he will acknowledge that the country is much better off as a result.
— The cable news networks will declare a moratorium on live coverage of car chases, celebrity trials and exhumation of murder victims’ bodies.
— CNN Headline News will swear off Nancy Grace as a program host who has pinned the “creepy meter” so frequently that she has debased the entire concept of cable news.
— The remaining journalistic staff of the Los Angeles Times will find a way to fire its owners and concentrate on trying to put out a high-quality newspaper.
— The public will initiate grassroots hearings to explore how daily newspapers can be rescued from the un-tender mercies of the so-called “free market” and then develop the kind of unfettered resources necessary to provide communities with independent journalism.
— “Local radio news” will be retrieved from the relic category as hundreds of radio stations find ways to provide listeners with on-the-spot reporting from around the region.
— TV stations across the country will impose rigorous professional standards on their local newscasts, renouncing the ethic of “if it leads, it bleeds” and embracing the principles of independent reportage and investigative journalism.
I apologize if this wish list appears to have drifted into the realm of the fanciful. For change to occur, it must first be imagined. And if our imaginations begin to lose control, maybe that can prove to be a useful step toward creating the kind of news media that we actually need.
©2008 Creators Syndicate, Inc.