Hugh Hewitt claims the news media have an anti-West Coast bias, i.e. the pundits who show up on news-talk shows are most likely to be from the NYC-DC corridor. He wonders why more compelling pundits (examples: Eugene Volokh and John Eastman, west coast professors with top credentials and real-world experience) don’t get much air time:
The answer has nothing to do with a left-right bias, or a Republican-Democrat tilt. It is simple geography: These are two of the best that the West coast has to offer, but the Washington-New York bookers are generally unfamiliar with the rising stars of political debate, and they are especially so when those stars are working in Pacific Standard Time.
I suppose this is true to a point. But I think Hewitt is engaging in romanticism, and that is blinding him to what may be more insidious reasons for the dearth of Volokhs on TV. He says:
Beyond ratings self-interest is the even more pressing issue of the responsibility of television news executives to work diligently at getting the entire story onto the airwaves.
What pressing issue of responsibility? The responsibilities of TV news executives are to cover the news in a way that’s appropriate for their medium and to make money. From the strucutual biases of journalism, we learn that TV demands drama and images–that’s what news executives must supply their audience. Drama and images are not conveyors of the kind of propositional content necessary to the type of debate Hewitt favors (I concur with his desire).
Further, academics are wont to speak in sound chunks, not sound bites. And, the kind of finely reasoned points that make for a good intellectual argument do not make entertaining television. If reason, logic, and a rhetoric informed by moral philosophy ruled television, then we would not see pundits such as those who populate Crossfire and its ilk.