Tom Matrullo wrote the other day about broadcast media royalty as professional mourners:
I feel compelled to ask (because I see no one asking), what does it mean that it has apparently become accepted practice for broadcast media to do the work of mourning for us?…
Listening to NPR’s Scott Simon, or watching hour after hour of televised shock and awe, one begins to wonder when and by what process these news anchors and commentators came to be appointed our official encomiasts, eulogists, undertakers, funeral-following marching band, interpreters of history and diviners of omens and portents.
So, I’m wondering, are news anchors the new Sophists? I see quite a few parallels. Anchors are the folks we can’t stand because of the way they orate and influence. We worry about the persuasion involved, the blurring of right and wrong. We worry about the slant and the skew. The Greeks got all worked up about these traits, which they felt the Sophists’ speeches displayed.
Like Tom said, anchors are our professional orators, there for every eulogy and encomium. Instead of standing on a box in a public space, they’re in our houses, in their own little box.
And both were/are all about building a brand – every anchorman has his/her signature sign-off. (Although they all have the same hair.) Each Sophist collected his own student following by building a reputation. Remember this old commecial tagline? “More people get their news from ABC news than any other source.” That was the ad that featured a slow pan across a sea of carefully-lit anchor faces, faces made so recognizable that they needed no nametags. And what are nightly-news watchers except students who show up regularly to be told what’s what in the world?