Al Gore, Press Critic
A washed-up politician finds a new venue for his ideas.
Gore writes, "The average American, meanwhile, is watching television an astonishing five hours a day. In the average household, at least one television set is turned on more than eight hours a day."
Those numbers sound horrific, as if the news twisters are pouring garbage into viewers' brains one-third of every day. But how many times have you walked into a room in which a television was playing to no audience at all? How often have you walked into a TV room and found the one person sitting paying no attention to the set? Nielsen tabulates those televisions as "watched." For many people, a steadily humming television fills the background, not the foreground. Nielsen provides a less scary TV statistic from a 2009 study in this PDF: In 2009 the average primetime viewership was a mere 1 hour and 12 minutes a day for individuals. And that includes time-shifted viewing via a DVR or other device.
Pointer No. 4: Never bring up Fox News without noting how relatively small its audience is.
Yes, Fox News attracts the largest audiences of any news network. On June 21, for example, O'Reilly attracted 3 million viewers and Hannity 2.1 million, winning their time slots in cable news (source: Nielsen via Mediaite). But in a country of 311 * million, that audience is small potatoes. (Sidebar: Edward Jay Epstein reports in Adweek that every Fox News rating success benefits CNN because "more cable systems need to retail CNN for a semblance of balance.")
Pointer No. 5: Never call the kettle black.
If you're going to be a press critic and a press mogul simultaneously, you should probably mention this in your press criticism. Gore, chairman of the lefty-liberal news channel Current, doesn't mention this fact in the body of his Rolling Stone piece.
Gore recently hired Keith Olbermann, who moved his Countdown news and talk show from MSNBC to Current. I like Olbermann as much as the next guy. He's fun to watch and he knows how to write. But Olbermann is an opinion journalist who donates to Democratic campaigns. If you called Olbermann an ideologue, as David Carr does, you'd be right. I have no problem with ideological journalists. I watch a lot of ideological television and read from an assortment of ideological journals. Nor do I have problem with Gore being an ideologue. But he's at a severe handicap if he wants to denounce ideologues for being ideologues at the same time he's an ideologue.
Pointer No. 6: Make sure your quotations are accurate.
In his Rolling Stone piece, Gore quotes a "philosopher" who wrote, "The conversion of all questions of truth into questions of power has attacked the very heart of the distinction between true and false."
The quotation from Theodor W. Adorno, a Frankfurt School Marxist, reads in its entirety, "The conversion of all questions of truth into questions of power, a process that truth itself cannot escape if it is not to be annihilated by power, not only suppresses truth, as in earlier despotic orders, but has attacked the very heart of the distinction between true and false, which the hirelings of logic were in any case diligently working to abolish."* [The text Gore dropped is set in italics.]