We are becoming a nation of pundits. Pundits have turned much of our news into a “style ” like the eternal little black dress and the idea that black is chic to wear everywhere and anytime. The problem is pundits should not be everywhere and anytime– it’s annoying.
The term pundit originated in the 17th century from the Hindu word Pandita, meaning “learned.” A more recent American dictionary meaning of pundit is; usually an elderly person noted for wisdom, knowledge and good judgement–an authority. Does this sound to you like anyone we see or hear, day in and day out on any of our 24/7 media outlets on TV, radio, print or web? I can think of only a few pundits that fit this description because true pundits aren’t in-your-face constantly, they are too busy honing their expert skills. People like Glenn Beck, Nancy Grace, Ann Coulter, Elliot Spitzer and Bill O’Reilly are considered pundits of politics, pop culture or law. So, obviously the meaning has evolved.
Do I value the judgement of pundits? Mostly, no. I do however, value my own judgement, so if you want to just hand me the unfiltered news I think I might be able to make heads or tails of it myself. On the other hand, I would be open to a well-researched, knowledgeable opinion from someone totally in-the-loop, an expert in the field, as it were. Any takers?
The pundit label has a much more casual meaning today in a sort of casual-Friday type way. It seems you can sort-of have knowledge and kind-of have wisdom and flip-flop that good judgement around like well–flip-flops. Even some of the pundits that I sometimes agree with like Ed Schultz or Rachel Maddow of MSNBC , get on their TV and radio soap boxes and talk til’ I drop. I like opinion, I even have one but I don’t necessarily need it dissected and spoon fed to me, with a dose of bias lacking in any facts, which some pundits are prone to do.
Some radio pundits show their knowledge to listeners by cutting off their callers with differing views and TV pundits have been known to cry and yell on the air, in order to get across their infinite wisdom. These people are doing nothing to elevate the stature of pundit. There really should be levels. We have A list and B list movie stars, why not common ratings for pundits?
A “real” pundit should have the knowledge and credentials to back up an informed opinion. It wouldn’t even hurt for some topics, to expect pundits to have serious academic or scholarly experience in a subject. A kind of, know-before-you-go type of thing rather than a shoot-from-the-hip style. I’ve actually heard people say that many years ago in media land, experts or pundits used to at least attempt to be unbiased and didn’t affiliate themselves with a specific movement or even align themselves with media outlets–imagine that!
Difference between news analyst, commentator and pundit? None
Image by quirkybird via Flickr
I decided just yesterday for no reason in particular, to throw my hat into the pundit ring. I’ve heard through other reliable pundits (pretty funny huh, using reliable and pundit in same sentence) that all you need is an opinion and a forum. I figure I have both. My forum might be small by Fox or CNN standards but never-the-less a blog is a blog and you just never know who drops by.
I was in the newspaper business for many years, and the only words we ever used to describe who we were and what we did were typically reporter, correspondent, columnist and of course editor. The editorial was the newspaper version of opinion along with columns, which were the express opinion of the writer who wrote them. As reporters or correspondents (which were our part-time reporters) we wrote news backed up with plenty of facts and sources or it didn’t fly. Pretty cut and dried. But, people even then, expressed confusion about what exactly an editorial was, no matter that I once wrote an editorial explaining to readers exactly what an editorial was. So evidently, opinion and fact and how they are packaged has always been confusing for some. Myself included.
Today of course, we have been enlightened with so much opinion in our news, especially TV news, that the lines seem especially blurred between pundit, commentator and news analyst. I have been researching these three terms for quite a while and have come to the conclusion that pundits, commentators and news analysts are completely interchangeable. For a while, I thought a news analyst was not supposed to have a personal opinion. That he/she was supposed to gather the facts, have some extra deep knowledge to add to those facts that us dummies don’t know and present same to us in an unbiased manner.
But, my new pundit opinion thinking cap got in the way. If you are analyzing a situation how do you do that without bringing your own bias into the mix? How is an analyst going to analyze without coming to some conclusion? And you can’t come to a conclusion and be unbiased. If you just throw out the facts and don’t analyze then you aren’t an analyst anymore just a reporter or a correspondent or someone who just reads the news on TV with no comments whats-so-ever (an unheard of phenomenon). Even interpreting the news, which is something news analysts do often, is still interpreting the news by the standards of the analysts themselves or who ever they work for. So they still have a point of view. A point of view cannot be void of opinion.
This is certainly not think-tank stuff but since a commentator is an opinion person, and a pundit is most definitely an opinion person (think Bill O’Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck) and since I have personally dropped the status of news analyst to mere opinion person I think a new word to describe all three interchangeable words is in order. Maybe something like anal-puntator or…I’m sure you come can up with plenty of your own.
(If you are a news junkie like I am you might want to pick up a copy of this; http://amzn.to/1rIhuzD “The News: A Users Manual.” It definitely shows how the 24hr. news cycle affects our lives. Now, the author does analyze in this book but maybe I like it because I agree with most of it.) I bought it in hardcover rather than digital just because I find it easier to skim. I am an Amazon affiliate so I do get a small commission If you purchase through my link.
Filed under buzz, politics, satire
Tagged as bill-oreilly, CNN, commentator, FOX, Fox Broadcasting Company, Glenn Beck, news analyst, pundits, Rush Limbaugh, Television