“Again, generalisations are dangerous. Some of these town journals are feisty and excellent. But, in the main, local papers leave big national issues and even bigger international ones to network TV news. And, in a dismaying turn, those networks have reduced their foreign coverage to a bare minimum. Why (with viewing figures down as much as 60 per cent over a couple of decades) silt your newscasts with stuff that guarantees audience rejection? Little Samantha or the Pennsylvania Nine are much bigger draws than Saddam. Leave him to the 24-hour news channels.
So the buck passes to CNN and Fox and MSNBC, all primed with a tickertape speeding across the bottom of the screen and formulae filling the space above. The formula that counts, however, is simple. Never linger long; never risk tedium by unravelling complexity. Discussion is ubiquitously described as ‘Hardtalk’, because it is calculatingly adversarial and ferociously condensed. ‘Expert opinion’ amounts to little more than an obscure (to me) British foreign affairs commentator interviewed by Pat Buchanan on MSNBC, maintaining that European doubts about an Iraq attack are fuelled by liberal editorials in papers such as Le Monde and ‘the Times of London’.”