This is an easy blog to post, since this is a comment by Michael Smerconish, on a truthful look at the mess we know as our news media. He really does deserve his own show:
Michael Smerconish: Any conversation about political polarization would be incomplete without a look at the media's role in shaping opinions. From my view on the front lines, I have seen a rapid escalation of extreme dialogue -- sadly, something sure to guarantee high ratings.
Why does this matter? I'd argue that the climate in Washington is being shaped by an artificial presentation of attitudes on cable TV and talk radio. To view and to listen is to become convinced that there are only two, diametrically opposed philosophical approaches to the issues. And yet, working daily in both mediums, I often think that the only people I meet who see the world entirely through liberal or conservative lenses are the hosts with whom I rub shoulders.
Buying gas or groceries or attending back-to-school nights, I speak to people for whom the issues are a mixed bag; they are liberal on some, conservative on others, middle of the road on the rest. But politicians don't take their cues from those people. No, politicians emulate the world of punditry.
Opinions from the middle are underrepresented, even shunned, in the modern debate ... ratings are driven by passion, not universal appeal or general acceptance. While the most recent polling and voter registration data suggest that political power lies in the middle, it remains largely untapped because it lacks the fervor of the extremes. All of which leaves more elected officials beholden to the fringe elements of their parties, which in turn means less gets done.
It's a self-fulfilling prophecy, and it is robbing our televisions and radios of the substantive dialogue the country desperately needs, while leaving our politics a petty and unproductive mess.