Posts Tagged ‘politics’

TV Talk Shows Serve a Need

Childhood’s “formative years,” as they were referred to, included nightly, televised-in-living-black-and-white news stories of the war—battles, injured soldiers, taps playing near a flag draped coffin; racial conflicts in the South and angry demonstrations against both; and rebelling “anti-establishment” hippies all over the place. 

Back in 1978, when the Top 40 music was still pretty good and the Vietnam War was over, I was pregnant with my first child. 

I saw many pictures on TV of battles and dead soldiers over there and battles where armed police threw teargas and used fire hoses on black people “to control” them. Their main weapons were words and rocks. 

I heard lots of words and saw “film at 11” pictures with verbal captions but no clear explanations on the WHY of what happened. 

News programs are no different today. 

Yes, we have more immediate pictures available and seldom have to wait hours to see the action. Yes, we have live phone calls accompanied by Smartphone video from civilians to show the live and up-close action. Sometimes we can be duped, learning later videos were staged or otherwise falsely altered. 

Even with all the advances, we still have little deeper understanding of current events. 

During my pregnancy so long ago, I became jobless early on and knew no one in my new neighborhood. I’d never had so much time on my hands that wasn’t regulated and scheduled. I wasn’t sure what to do with myself. My friends didn’t live in my new town or were working, as were my neighbors. 

I found Phil Donahue on the TV and a window on the world opened wide for me. The guests and subjects were diverse. The audience asked questions. I felt like I was seeing the world as it was for the first time in my adult life. I ate it up like contraband potato chips. 

In the mid-80s I was in the audience for a show about human sleep apnea and a dog with narcolepsy and I stood to ask a question!  A big adventure in the Big Apple. 

I had no idea about left/right wing, liberal/conservative viewpoints. I weighed everything. It turns out Phil Donahue is a liberal as is his wife, Marlo Thomas, an actress I enjoyed as “That Girl” on TV years before they even knew each other. 

I still appreciate Donahue and the view of the world his show offered. I still explore and weigh everything. My personal political motto is, “Issues, not Parties.”


Ten years before Donahue, I occasionally watched a talk show in the afternoon, with my mother, hosted by Virginia Graham. Graham’s show didn’t delve into newsy subjects and it wasn’t trashy with too much Hollywood gossip. Graham was an older woman, a real lady who watched her manners and speech. She had a natural gregarious manner, a great raspy voice and wasn’t shy about using it and facial expressions to make her point or show amusement. She was clearly entertained by her guests and happy to be a voice for women, to women. There were few women hosts on TV and she was great, even to my teenaged mind. I learned from her and her guests about the larger world around me. 

As a new teen, then young adult, I read a daily local newspaper and watched local TV news and “news magazine” shows such as 20/20 and CBS Sunday Morning, which offered more information about worldly issues and events. A little more was explained or clarified but so much more was left to the imagination without further personal investigation. Their stories teased curiosity or titillated toward gossip. 

Before the Internet it was not easy to follow-up on subjects of interest.  They also offered stories about subjects I’d never known existed. I stopped watching when the stories emphasized the sick and weird among us instead of tweaking our understanding or compassion to common challenges. 

CNN’s debut was unique–all news all day (and still is). I saw stories about strange murder cases or forest fires or drought in the West or politics or Hollywood. I discovered that the news looped the same stories over many hours so there was no need to stay glued to the TV. The channel’s premise was helpful—I didn’t have to wait for only 6, 7 or 11 p.m. to see the news. Yet, the reporting was incomplete. 

The Persian Gulf War of 1990-91 was telecast live on CNN every night. In an eerie green night-vision light, bombs called scuds glowed in lit up lines in the sky. A hit or miss was known almost immediately. 

All that game playing hadn’t been for nothing. Home computers were relatively new and there was barely an Internet, but some people bought them because of the promise of games at their fingertips. From the cockpit of a fighter jet, we saw the pilot’s view, which looked like the newly popular video games for kids.

In June 2001, I tuned into FoxNews for the first time. I worked at a newspaper then—most of which are notoriously liberal; this one was more centered, leaning left or right per issue, as far as I could tell. It differed some as staff changed. The reporters were young, fresh from college and mostly liberal, and I often heard someone at Fox quoted or mocked and I’d never heard of it. After the first week, I was hooked on the analysis shows, such as The O’Reilly Factor and Hannity & Colmes

Yes, I do like the fact that more than one side’s viewpoint and analysis are represented by the guests who are discussing serious issues on Fox.

I had only recently discovered that I am a conservative, with occasional leanings toward liberal. I have voted for Democrats when I was a registered Independent. I’ve been a registered Republican in protest since Clinton won his second term. I’ll probably go back to Independent, which is another story altogether.   

These days, if something really awful happens (such as 9/11 or the more recent events in the Middle East), I’ll switch back and forth to CNN and FoxNews to see what all the educated talkers are saying, using their best analysis skills to unravel events as complicated as a giant sticky ball of government red tape. 

Understanding is comforting in a small way even though I’m well aware there is nothing I can do alone to change events. But I may learn about things to which I will lend my voice and support or objection.  

I definitely learn what needs discussion among “we the people”—and prayer.



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