Journalists have to make a living. I understand that. I get paid to interview athletes and write opinion pieces on mixed martial arts and boxing. It is something I love in part because it is not too serious. Occasionally, I write about issues pertaining to the exploitation of athletes and corruption within the sports, but the truth is, the market does not really cater for it and I usually focus on analysis of the actual sport. And that's fine. I don't have problems sleeping at night.
But when it comes to serious issues like politics, the market becomes less important to me. Corruption and exploitation on a mass scale by our politicians and institutions is not something I can trivialize, and I am not willing to sell out and follow mainstream hacks to get a paycheck.
Every time I switch on the TV, I get upset when political hacks beat irrelevant issues to death, and generally discredit the profession they are supposed to be a part of. There are some I can tolerate (Chuck Todd for example is a hack, but very good at his job), and a few that really irritate me for a variety of reasons. It seems to me that the worst journalists are the ones who clearly know better, who have the intelligence to see through the insanity of corporate news, but continue to do it anyway. And that brings me to the ubiquitous but inconspicuous A.B Stoddard.
Who is A.B Stoddard, you might ask?
A regular on the now canceled Tucker Carlson Show, Stoddard was a former congressional reporter for The Hill, and has appeared as a pundit on all the major news networks. She writes a column for The Hill and takes herself very, very seriously. And this irritates me beyond belief.
Stoddard puts on an air of authority whenever on television, scrutinizing political issues in minute detail and offering expert analysis of every phrase, gaffe and speech. Stoddard has an impressive resume and certainly looks the part. But when you look at her work, there is nothing resembling critical thought, serious analysis or insight. Stoddard has essentially made a living analyzing superficial nonsense.
An example of her insights into Hillary Clinton from last year:
"OK, so now she's getting rapped for not tipping a waitress when she said she really did, and so today I feel sorry for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.). But how did the gender card play with you? It has been a whole 48 hours since the week-long story of Clinton as victim of the big boys, getting eaten up at a debate by those big mean boys.....I agree with what Tucker Carlson said on his MSNBC show this week, that Clinton's strength is her strength."
"Clinton's strength is her strength" ?? -- regurgitating Tucker Carlson phraseology really does take punditry to a new low. Stoddard also has a series of Q and A videos on The Hill, pontificating on issues important to only the most ardent political junkies. I tried to find anything resembling real journalism, like coming out against the war, or interesting opinion pieces on economic issues, but could find nothing - just a long record of opinion journalism on meaningless campaign issues and politicking. If anyone can find anything, please email me and I'll happily link to it.
The point is not to pick on Stoddard, but to make a larger reference to media punditry. mainstream journalists and pundits helped sell two illegal wars, ignored economic issues until it became a crisis, and are saying nothing about saber rattling against Iran. They get paid well to do it, and continue to regard themselves as real journalists.
They are not.
Real journalists stand up to power rather than cozy up to it. Real journalists focus on issues that matter to regular people rather than political junkies. Real journalists don't say things like "Clinton's strength is her strength."
Relentless analysis of meaningless campaign strategies and political ploys cannot be regarded as real journalism. It is pure and unadulterated hackery, and only serves to foster rating wars between media conglomerates. If Stoddard was the only pundit of her kind, her analysis might actually be interesting. But she only does what EVERY other 'political analyst' in the mainstream media does, and not particularly well.
I have a suggestion for Stoddard. She is clearly an intelligent woman with some analytical capability, and could probably find another subject to ply her trade in. It could be sports, cultural issues or lifestyle, anything that doesn't have an effect on meaningful issues.
Otherwise, all she is doing is aiding political apathy, trivializing debate and making a mockery of serious journalism.
Ben Cohen is the editor of www.thedailybanter.com and a contributing Mixed Martial Arts writer to www.espn.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org