At 7:00 p.m. Wednesday night, Fox News reporter Jim Angle, citing conservative experts, reported that Obamacare would force young people to pay vastly higher premiums, face large deductibles and leave 30 million Americans uninsured.
On MSNBC, Chris Matthews called Republican opponents of the program “political lightweights” and “puppatoons.” Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) said House Republicans were “sickening.”
A night of debate on the first federal government shutdown in 17 years and the country’s largest new government program in a generation had begun. On balance, Fox was worse than MSNBC. But both broadcasts were emblems of America’s failing news industry.
The triumph of opinion-driven cable TV and the collapse of newspapers has created an American news media that does an increasingly poor job of informing the public. And an excellent job of dividing it.
The media, of course, is not solely to blame for America’s political polarization. Complex dynamics — including a weak economy, gerrymandering and rapidly-shifting demographics — are fueling growing partisanship. But an economically battered news industry in desperate need of a new business model is a core part of the problem.