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In Memoriam: the Television News Media (1950 - 2005)

May 25, 2005
Obituary by Nancy Greggs

After a lengthy illness, the Television News Media (TNM) finally succumbed to a combination of lapses in professionalism and ethics, complicated by an obvious loss of the will to live.

Born in the early Fifties, the TNM grew from its infancy and developed as a strong, easily accessible news source for a constantly growing number of viewers, supported by the talents of informed investigative journalists.

During its frequently-troubled adolescent years, TNM found its voice and was often outspoken on the issues of the day, both domestic and international. Not afraid to criticize the government and its policies, TNM regularly investigated its own stories, and often took the initiative to look behind White House press releases and other suspect sources.

The TNM ventured, unafraid and uncensored, into coverage of events like Watergate, and was widely credited with turning the tide of public opinion against American involvement in Viet Nam by bringing the true horrors of war, as well as the lies being told about it, to the American public.

Upon hearing of TNM's untimely passing, childhood friends reminisced about their departed friend, who had earned the nickname "VP" (Vigilant Press) back in the halcyon days of early broadcasting.

"We started noticing the symptoms on Inauguration Day, January 2001," explained a long-time friend. "There were thousands of protesters lining the streets along Bush's route, but TNM was adamant in its refusal to show them. We should have realized then that something was terribly wrong. It seemed so out of keeping with the TNM we'd grown up with."

In the lead-up to the war in Iraq, it was obvious that TNM was in failing health. Stories generated by the White House about WMD, a connection to 9/11 and Al Qaeda affiliations aired without any questions being asked.

"Back in the day," observed a long-time TNM colleague, "a story as bogus as that would never have gotten past the cue-card writers – it was that full of holes."

By the time the 2004 presidential campaign was in full swing, TNM was out of control. Rumours about wild Swift Boat parties began circulating, and viewers were left to their own ingenuity to try to ferret out any real information.

"It seemed unable to focus," commented one angry viewer. "The whole time questions were being asked about Bush's military record, TNM was arguing about the legitimacy of everyone's sources. Fair enough. But it got so caught up in the minutia of who was saying what, the real story about Bush's whereabouts during his so-called military service was completely lost."

In the aftermath of the election, TNM began showing signs of forgetfulness. Although two months of investigation into vote fraud, in Ohio and elsewhere, were ongoing, TNM failed to even mention it.

"There was a time when a story like that would have been all over the airwaves," said a disgruntled former colleague. "But all TNM seemed to be interested in was Scott Peterson, and Brad and Jen breakin' up – whoever they are."

"I think TNM kind of rallied when the Valerie Plame and Abu Ghraib scandals surfaced," commented a more compassionate viewer. "You know, all that talk about getting to the bottom of things, and demanding answers – it was great while it lasted. For a minute there, it was almost like the old days. But there was never any follow-through, and – well, you know the rest."

By the spring of 2005, TNM had deteriorated to the point where it had to be hooked up to a TelePrompTer, apparently fed directly by the Administration, the right-wing, and corporate interests. Polls showed that a vast majority of viewers favoured pulling the plug.

Dementia had set in, and TNM started babbling incoherently about runaway brides and other nonsense, obviously unable to speak rationally about the economy, job outsourcing, soaring gas prices and the disastrous situation in Iraq.

"I think it was failure to cover the Downing Street Memo story that did it in," said a (former) devoted viewer. "It was like ol' TNM just didn’t have any fight left in him. That’s when we knew it was over," he added, too overcome by emotion to continue.

The White House has yet to issue any formal statement on TNM's passing, but spokesperson Scotty McClelland called the idea of the death of ethical journalism "absurd."

"You just have to look at the up-and-comers like Jeff Gannon to realize that honesty and integrity are flourishing in today's creative news-gathering environment."

While official autopsy findings have not been disclosed, it is widely acknowledged that TNM's illness was contagious, having already spread to the radio and print news media.

The deceased is survived by websites and blogs, who reluctantly took control of the family business when TNM proved too weak-minded to carry out its duties responsibly.

Memorial services will not be held, due to what is obviously a total lack of interest on anyone's part.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to appropriate websites.

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