John McCaslin

"Made in China."

Or so reads the tag on the navy blue "Pentagon United States — Dept. of Defense" cap purchased for this columnist on the main concourse of the Pentagon at the Fort America concession.

Bring back Murrow

Turned off by TV news? You're not alone.

We've just finished reading a scathing critique of network news by Jeffrey M. McCall, professor of communication at Indiana's DePauw University and author of "Viewer Discretion Advised: Taking Control of Mass Media Influences."

It was this time last year, the professor notes, that Federal Communications Commission Commissioner Michael Copps criticized the television news industry for giving the public "too much baloney passed off as news."

"Sadly, the evidence since that speech indicates that Copps' critique remains quite valid," Mr. McCall writes. "From superficial coverage of elections to hyped-up coverage of celebrity scandals, the broadcast news industry continues to give the citizenry a news agenda that degrades the conversation of democracy."

And how have the news networks reacted?

"NBC is countering the decline in journalistic effort with an increase in razzle-dazzle," he finds. "Evening anchor Brian Williams was a guest host last fall on 'Saturday Night Live.' NBC executives were delighted with the stunt, one of them saying, 'It showed a side of his personality that some viewers may have warmed to.' "

(Perhaps we will warm up to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton now that she appeared on the same comedy show over the weekend).

"The most recent NBC novelty is the new voice that introduces Williams' 'Nightly News.' It is none other than Hollywood actor Michael Douglas, recruited by Williams himself to open the show," Mr. McCall adds in his Op-Ed column, which first appeared in the South Bend (Ind.) Tribune.

It's so pitiful, he points out, that on a certain "day last June when oil prices dropped $2 a barrel, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs stepped down, the space shuttle launched, and former national security adviser Sandy Berger surrendered his law license for stealing government documents, the story that dominated cable news was Paris Hilton's release from jail."

Still, he says, there's hope:

"Former NBC journalist Maria Shriver recently told NBC she wouldn't return to the network from her current hiatus. She cited the media excesses in covering the death of Anna Nicole Smith last year as the major factor, saying 'It was then that I knew the TV news business had changed.' "

Reagan reruns

Feeling left out for missing the Reagan Revolution? Not to worry, the Gipper is back.

John McCaslin

John McCaslin is a contributing columnist on and author of Inside The Beltway: Offbeat Stories, Scoops, and Shenanigans from around the Nation's Capital .

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