Thanks For the Insight, Mr. Henderson

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Thanks For the Insight, Mr. Henderson

I am no longer surprised -- but nonetheless annoyed -- when I hear what passes as intelligent commentary on TV news programs. Regarding the vacancy on the SCOTUS, Knight Ridder reporter Stephen Henderson was asked this morning on MSNBC to offer his assessment of the leading candidates to fill the O'Connor vacancy.

This is what Henderson had to say about J. Harvie Wilkinson:
"He is solid on the Constitution and the law."
What exactly does that mean? Is this a different way of saying Wilkinson's philosophy is governed by "original intent"?

It's possible that Henderson simply chose his words poorly. But it's also possible that Henderson has only a minimal understanding of Wilkinson's judicial philosophy. If so, why couldn't he have said something fairly simple like "conservatives generally praise his judicial record."

But the talking-heads world in which the media operates strongly discourages someone from having an unclarified opinion or no particular opinion at all. Instead, reporters, commentators and other guests on these programs are encouraged to offer meaningless, empty assessments (like the one that Henderson gave) that fail to enlighten and only confuse the typical TV viewer.

Sadly, to get invited back onto TV programs, reporters and commentators must have strong, fire-breathing opinions -- preferably, a strong opinion on everything. Whether they actually know of what they speak is irrelevant.

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