I don’t know whether George Bernard Shaw or Freud was more right. Shaw defined a news reporter as some one who did not know the difference between a bicycle crash and the end of the world. Freud might have put it sometimes a bicycle crash is just a bicycle crash.
The Clemens hearings were theater. The election coverage with all its polls and stories about premature campaign collapses and unending predictions or questions about what it all means is theater. Environmental news is possibly even worse; the latest threat to our world is just an SUV away or a misunderstood or wrongly used possibility of a study wrongly reported as a threat. Possibilities are not threats. Did you know that the default rate for CountryWide’s mortgage portfolio just went up from 0.77 to 1.48 percent? This was reported as a doubling this morning on the news/fiction show. That means it fell from 99.23 percent to 98.52 percent. Yet, from what you hear about the “sub-prime crisis” financial markets and the economy are on the verge of collapse. The news is not just shallow it is something that strongly affects perception through the social learning modality. The danger is that too many people will believe X when X is a remote possibility if enough other people believe X and they believe X because the news reports X endlessly and the news outlets imitate one another. Reality is lost so deep is the self-referential reenforcing cycle.
I think Steve Salerno has a lot of the reasons for the really bad state of the news in his Journalist-Bites-Reality article on eSkeptic.