Last week Andy Rooney passed away after living a full, if curmudgeonly life. Rooney was, of course, famous for his monologues that concluded CBS’s weekly program 60 Minutes. Many people tolerated the boredom of the main program just to hear what triviality would set off Rooney. Rooney was the cranky neighbor, except viewers got him in manageable doses. Unfortunately, 60 Minutes and its producers represented the worst in Old Time Media bias with their general disgust for US capitalism. Rooney was the comic relief that, at the end of each show, soothed people’s skepticism and brought them back for another dose of indoctrination.
The 60 Minutes formula was fairly simple: Hit US industry for being competitive. Blame capitalists for the fact that life is hard and unfair. Give prime-time exposure to spokespeople for the outrageous extremes of left-wing viewpoints. Cut industry response time so short that their point seemed trivial. Finally, most programs included a puff piece about a celebrity doing good or an athlete overcoming a tough childhood – a tear jerker to loosen up viewer skepticism. Mix it up, but always one or two tough exposes on companies that should have somehow focused on more than earning a profit.
There was competition for 60 Minutes, of course, such as ABC’s 20/20, but CBS had the more popular formula with Rooney. 20/20 was more balanced with John Stossel’s migration toward capitalist champion, but CBS had Rooney – the lollypop after visiting the dentist. Even when Rooney made mildly racist comments in 1990 and 1997, CBS knew it could not afford to let him go. Rooney was 60 Minutes’s clandestine backbone; he was the foil that allowed 60 Minutes to viciously attack capitalism and conservatives while maintaining a prime-time slot.
The loss of Rooney is not 60 Minutes’s only problem. Sensationalism and lack of balance is a dark art that cannot survive in the light provided by internet journalists. 60 Minutes II and Dan Rather were surprised to learn that their claims would be scrutinized when they presented the fake George W. Bush National Guard letters. Not only do internet journalists prevent lies from standing, they also scoop programs constrained by weekly scheduling and high production values. 60 Minutes never covered the Kelly Thomas story – a police brutality case custom made for their sensibilities. Instead, the story was developed and broken by local internet journalists. Again and again, the real news is on the internet and beyond the control of the OTM
To survive, OTM programming must either offer timely reporting or a unique perspective, and 60 Minutes offers neither. Not only do internet journalists debunk blatant and defamatory lies, they get the news out weeks before the OTM can produce a slick hack job. US consumers and voters are fortunate that 60 Minutes will never recapture the number one rating it enjoyed while fraudulently manufacturing defects in Audi cars. The old formula of hit pieces, puff pieces, and Andy Rooney will never work again, so RIP Andy Rooney, and (hopefully soon) good riddance 60 Minutes.