Jim is an accomplished writer with many great literary achievements, most of which he simply made up.
Your new career!
Do you have an opinion, no matter how shallow or superficial? Do you enjoy shouting it over others when they disagree? Do you frequently interrupt people to inject your own opinion?
Perhaps you enjoy yelling at people in traffic? Do you frequently get into arguments with the manager at the Walmart?
Do you carry yourself with a sense of absurd self-importance? People you know often describe you as a smug, arrogant blowhard?
Do you enjoy senselessly pummeling those with whom you disagree? Have you recently undergone therapy for excessive narcissism? If so, perhaps you should consider being a television pundit.
Don't step on my ego!
You are about to join the storied ranks of news-entertainment personalities like, Ron Burgundy, Michael Moore, Charles Foster Kane, Keith Olberman, and Carl Diggler.
You've got "big shoes to fill" ...and big egos! Just don't trip over your own ego in the process. Easier said than done! You will have to navigate the murky waters of notoriety without collapsing under the weight of your own pomposity. Good luck with that!
Does this describe you?
Honest journalism not for you? Do you find an intelligent discussion of the issues boring? If you thrive on controversy and enjoy throwing tantrums in public, then, forget the rigors of real journalism and become a pundit.
Being a television pundit has many benefits. Who doesn't enjoy demeaning stupid people that disagree with you?
Who has time for substantive analysis and the rigors of honest investigation when you can easily pander to the prejudices of your audience? If this describes you, then you may have the aptitude needed for this exciting new career.
It's all about you!
The "facts" are whatever you say they are. Because you are a pundit! And ...you have your own set and camera crew.
You are the news. Be the news. So what if you don't have a prime-time time slot; you have a time slot on cable Tv, even if you were sandwiched between re-runs of "Gilligan's Island" and "Game Shows of the 70's."
Oh, not everyone will appreciate the quality of your late-night tabloid journalism. You will have your critics. Some may call you a demagogue but that's OK. It's all about how you define it. By definition, a demagogue is everyone but yourself.
When navigating complex issues, never confuse the viewer with the facts; always reduce things to their simplest terms until only the conclusion you have selected remains.
They are not the same!
Do you confuse journalism with being a pundit? That's OK. It’s a common mistake many people make. They are not the same.
Being a successful pundit is not about real journalism, as some might think; as a pundit you get to prosecute, blather, and bloviate. A good pundit must avoid thoughtful commentary and weighty analysis; don't get hung up on that intellectual stuff.
When navigating complex issues, never confuse the viewer with the facts. A good pundit always reduces things to their simplest terms until only the conclusion you have selected remains. It's a process of elimination. If you start to veer off into the intellectual "weeds", you should remember the maxim, "You don't have to be a rocket-scientist to be a rocket-scientist." So keep it simple. Give the viewer your conclusion first so "they" don't have to exert mental effort.
Surprised? Why do you think they call it "programming" in the first place?
Most successful pundits model themselves after “Jerry Springer." Sensationalism and controversy are the story; nobody watches the news to be informed. Viewers expect to have their opinions and beliefs reinforced. Some refer to this in a derogatory way as "confirmation bias." Imagine that?!
Confirmation bias occurs when people look for information that supports their beliefs or ideas. It is also a way to disregard information that does not. As people, we tend to pick the information that best confirms what we already believe to be true.
Out with the old...
Remember Walter Cronkite? Of course you don't! And why is that? Could it be, perhaps, that stodgy old Walter just stuck to the facts, never berated his guests, or insulted their intelligence; which is exactly why Walt would never make it in the industry today.
-yawn. Sorry Walt. I have to change channels.
The Exciting World of "News-entertainment!"
Welcome to the WWE of journalism!
You are the icon of the News Entertainment industry. As in Professional Wrestling, this is a purely entertainment-based performance. It's the same chaotic scene, just without the spandex! While you don't get to actually smash someone over the head with metal holding chair, you can still inflict mental anguish or trauma on the set because somebody has to keep the ratings up.
When the action lulls, your viewers depend on you to inject chaos, bluster, and pandemonium into the studio. This is a melee, not a news event. Viewers want to be entertained, not informed. So get out there and drop kick somebody in the teeth because you don't agree with their point of view.
A congenial and thoughtful discussion of the issues has ruined many a career. Hit the snooze button, quick! What's that sound I hear? Could it be ...viewers clicking on another channel.
Do you have what it takes?
So, how about it? Are you eager to engage in shabby tabloid-journalism? Are you ready to thrive on the accolades of your peers and the scorn of your critics? Then, let's get started!
Navigating the complexity of issues can be tricky; when too many variables are in play, simplify. Reduce every issue to race or gender or greed.
A congenial and thoughtful discussion of the issues has ruined many a career. Quick, somebody hit the snooze button!
What's that sound I hear? Could it be …viewers clicking on another channel.
The first rule of pundit-to-pundit encounters is "Deflect, deflect, deflect." Pundits must be able to dodge legitimate questions as a perceived slight to themselves, while making thinly veiled slights at their opponent.
The successful pundit is able to create controversy. Gain popularity and ratings by exploiting emotions and ignorance, with a convenient sprinkling of "facts" to keep up the appearance of real journalism.
Your skill set:
- The "facts" are whatever you need them to be. Information is in the "eye of the beholder."
- Rely on visceral reactions to provoke your audience. Irrationality is so much more plausible when you can incite emotional turmoil than honest investigation.
- Double-standards are preferred. There is no need to apply the same rules to opposing points of view.
- Free thinking is discouraged. Tell the viewer what they are supposed to think. After all, you are a pundit. Chastise people for having opinions contrary to yours.
- Learn to be ambiguous and vague.
- Be offended. This is your show. It's your name on the marquee. How dare a guest come on your show and disagree?
- Hone your theatrical skills. Think of yourself as a performer. Know how to upstage your opponent.
- Interrupt your guests often and loud.
- Be "warmly" disingenuous. After you publicly eviscerate the opposing guest, wish him or her well as they exit the studio. Thank them for coming onto your show as they are rolled out on a gurney to some remote place where they can undergo recovery.
Why do you think they call it programming? Don't act so surprised. It's called "programming" for a reason.
Feed the audience!
The industry recognizes that viewers want to feel morally and intellectually superior to the opposing side. The job of the pundit is to feed this basic human appetite by vilifying those with whom you disagree.
No one recognizes this more than the pundit.
Booking the lineup...
Fortunately there is no shortage of "experts" and guests, willing to come on air and make wild, unsubstantiated accusations. So go ahead and pad your lineup with dubious guests. There is no shortage of boot-licking sycophants to bolster any argument you choose. Schedule numerous repeat invites often as some guests may be incarcerated later, and may not be available for a return visit.
See you on Tv!
While being a pundit is an exciting career, not everyone is cut out to be angry night after night; but if you can handle the stress, and you're addicted to watching yourself on television, the rewards are worth the trouble.
So go on and get out there, because you too can be a Tv pundit!
Question of the day
"Misinformation" and Journalism:
I've got a question for you out there. What is "yellow journalism"? Were journalists willing accomplices or did they pander to the public for ratings? What role did "misinformation" play?
You've just read another informative article written by the author who, after five minutes on "Google" is an expert on anything. While the author is NOT qualified to give advice to anyone, he nonetheless provides the naïve and gullible with plausible guidance on a wide range of subjects. The author declines to accept responsibility and should you attempt to follow his advice, you should probably be committed to an institution for your own safety.
© 2020 Jim Henderson