But the new era of instant information rendered Brinkley and many other broadcast veterans almost powerless. No longer is the American public a captive audience, and no longer will the folks settle for an expressionless recitation of the news. With the advent of the Internet and round-the-clock cable news, the audience quickly knows the basic facts of a story. But often, along with those facts come instant spin and contradiction. Informational fog develops, leaving busy Americans in need of context.
They want to know how the journalists they trust feel about things important to their lives. The news consumer is almost desperate for someone to define the truth.
Thus, the good old days when the Brinkleys and Cronkites could simply introduce stories in measured tones are coming to an end. The audience for dispassionate news is shrinking, and the demand for passionate reporting and analysis is on the rise.
This, I have been arguing, is precisely the lesson of the success of both FoxNews and weblogs: The audience does want opinons — or at least to know what the presenters’ opinions are. The audience wants compelling, not dull, news. The audience will think for itself and isn’t afraid of opinions. O’Reilly himself is the proof.