You’d have to be deaf, blind or both, but a story of such significance bears repeating – so here it is:
BREAKING NEWS – Megyn Kelly is leaving Fox News Channel.
And everyone over at Fox said amen. In fact, it’s very likely that many of the Fox viewers vociferously echo that amen chorus. All this breathless hyping of a news anchor moving to another network feels a little like a mother bragging that her kid just got into Harvard.
As of late, Ms. Kelly has not been reporting the news as much as she has made herself the news. And therein lies the dilemma: From a cover spread in the Hollywood Reporter to a book she’s written (about herself) there’s practically nowhere you can run and hide and not find Megyn lurking around the corner. Bookstores. Check. Your 55-inch flat screen. Check. Your computer. Check. Your smartphone. Check. Check. Check.
But before we go too far down this road and you think this is a hit piece on Ms. Kelly, it is not. Sadly, Ms. Kelly’s stardom as a “journalist” is emblematic of a serious problem within the broadcast journalism industry that has metastasized into an Ebola-style plague across the airwaves. And she is Exhibit A of this bilious condition.
This disorder exists because broadcast journalism has primarily become a vehicle for self-discovery. It’s all about me. Your need to know the real news comes trailing behind by thirty-one lengths like the nameless horse who came in second behind Secretariat at the Belmont Stakes. This sickness is primarily due to the prevailing industry-wide opinion that you are dull, uninteresting, banal. Above all, you are insignificant. Of course, this collective you are the ones that just effected the greatest political upset in American history – all you insipid little people out there in TV land.
Long ago and far away American broadcast journalists were given standards. These rubrics were considered the TV news canon of ethics – the proverbial red line in the sand no respectable broadcaster ever crossed if they wanted to be taken seriously. How do I know this? Because I was a broadcast journalist and these things were pounded into my head by people like Natalea Brown and Betty Endicott – imperfect people to be sure, but true women pioneers in the broadcast news industry. They spoke of ethics, power, and responsibility. And they issued edicts from which Ms. Kelly and her ilk could learn much. Simple things like:
Just the fact’s ma’am – Who, what, when, where and why are the basics of good journalism. Where was the political rally? How many people attended? Quote the person being interviewed exactly. And never, ever let your opinion get in the way of the event. You are a mere bystander reporting the facts.
Skip the Dangle earrings, darling – (Yes, they actually said this!) Point being: do not draw attention to yourself. Dangle earrings, not to mention dresses cut specifically for maximum cleavage distract the viewer. You want them to hear what is said, not focus on your appearance.
It’s not about you – You, the news broadcaster, are only a vehicle, a proxy for the event you are covering. People aren’t interested in you. They are interested in the issue you are covering. Be thorough. Be accurate. And then get the hell off the air.
So, what happened between the days of Natalea Brown, Betty Endicott and Megyn Kelly? Why has broadcast journalism become a sick cult of personality? Why are women like Ms. Kelly appearing on news programs in garments that smack of lingerie and posing for suggestive photos in magazines instead of telling you what you need to know about the events of the day? Why have ethics and responsibility been replaced with worship at the altar of almighty self?
Here’s a hint: it’s a three-letter word that begins with “e” and ends with “o.”
In a corrupted reality, the ego becomes the master and people like Ms. Kelly become its slave. The Oxford-English Dictionary informs us that ego is “the part of the mind that mediates between the conscious and the unconscious and is responsible for reality testing … .” Therefore, we can surmise that all of us little people must play our part as these broadcast egos, camouflaged as journalists, desperately try to find their self-image and self-worth by testing out their contaminated version of reality.
The only problem with this, as Sigmund Freud once said, “The ego refuses to be distressed by the provocations of reality ... .” In the case of Ms. Kelly, reality has become a twisted and perverse exploration of identity. But make no mistake, Megyn Kelly may be the poster child for this plague of self that is sweeping across the broadcast news industry, but the disease has gone viral, and unfortunately for all of us, there may no longer be any way to contain it.
And yet there is hope, and it comes from, of all places, a Canadian named Dr. Laurence J. Peter. He developed something called The Peter Principle which states, “in a hierarchy people tend to rise to their level of incompetence. Thus, as people are promoted, they become progressively less-effective because good performance in one job does not guarantee similar performance in another.”
So, perhaps an Oprah slot on daytime TV across from the soap operas is precisely where Ms. Kelly belongs. Any which way you look at it, the mainstream broadcast news industry should reflect upon this little sideshow with Kelly and learn that when you feed the hungry monster of ego, sometimes you find you can get eaten by the very monster you have created.
Leesa K. Donner labored in the broadcast news industry for twelve years as a television news anchor, reporter and producer at NBC, CBS and Metromedia (now FOX) affiliates in Charlotte, Pittsburgh and Washington, DC. She is the author of "Free At Last: A Life-Changing Journey through the Gospel of Luke." Leesa also writes for the American Thinker.