Originally Posted by JoeRedskin
The rise of the opinionated commentator is simply a market function of the internet age. There is less "reporting" because the traditional job of reporting has been, to a great extent, replaced by the internet and consumers now need assistance in processing the volume of information readily available to them.
Prior to the internet, there was a need for truly objective reporting b/c not everyone had access to information. Reporting was necessary to discover and learn actual facts. Not how the facts were applied or could be applicable but, instead, simply what they were. Some filter was used as reporters had to determine what "Facts" were relevant to the matter being reported (e.g. - in reporting on the outcome of a football game, is the attendance at the game relevant?). As such, we relied on others (reporters) to gather information and present it to us in a reasonbly objective manner so that we could then process it and reach our own conclusions from the facts presented. The best traditional reporters gave us complete, relevant and accurate facts.
Since the explosion of the internet, however, having others gather factual information for us is rarely neccessary. Rather, there is a flood of information, both raw factual information and original source information, available to anyone who knows how to perform basic searches. Further, even if you can't find the information directly, you can probably find someone who has it or has a "link" to it. Unlike the pre-internet days, there is no dearth of factual data. Instead, "facts" come from all directions fast and hard and it is easy to be overwhelmed (Anyone who has done any serious internet research on Global Warming and its causes can attest to this). Thus, instead of a need for facts, people have a need for processing the various facts presented .
Given the plethora of factual information available, the current need is for "commentators" to assist people by providing the expertise neccessary for determining what is relevant and discerning how the disparate, and sometimes contradictory, facts interrelate. By its nature, the processing of facts is a much more subjective function than the gathering of facts. Because of the sheer volume and diversity of factual information available, just about any position, point of view or conclusion can be supported. Again, the BEST commentators perform their function as objectively as possible and try not to be "outcome oriented" but rather see their function as providing their audience with the necessary tools to come to its own conclusions.
Rather than attempt to seek out balanced commentary, however, many individuals simply look for the commentator who provides the factual support and argumentative back up for their pre-existing belief. These individuals look for commentators who "make sense" of the competing factual information and provide the agumentative organization that, in turn, allows the individuals to logically - and factually - justify their previously held opinions. Thus, commentators who provide the "expertise" to support popularly held beliefs (or, in today's competive information market, widely held beliefs) will always find a market and turn a profit.
In any real analysis, facts and expertise are essential. The question should always be - despite my previously held beliefs - "What should I believe?" Unfortunately, and to the profit of the Maher's, Limbaugh's, Dobbs', etc. too many people ask "How can I support what I already believe?".