Ashleigh Banfield Steps Out on a Limb

You know, I never gave much thought to MSNBC’s Ashleigh Banfield as a serious journalist. She always struck me as more of a pretty face the network trotted out to grab people’s attention while they channel-surf. But something really remarkable has happened that’s changed my thinking on that subject a bit.

On April 24, Kansas State University-Manhattan hosted Banfield as a speaker as part of their Landon Lecture series. Now, I managed my college’s lecture series for a period while a student, so I know that most of these speeches are anything but newsworthy. Banfield, however, used the platform to give a lecture that is provocative, thought-provoking, and challenging — a lecture in which she makes an insightful distinction between “coverage”, in which pictures and words are just pushed at viewers without context, and “journalism”, in which context is the whole point. Her argument is that U.S. coverage of the Iraq war was much closer to the former than the latter.

She used that platform to say some things that are amazing to hear from a mainstream American television journalist. Don’t take my word from it, read or hear her speech for yourself:

For having the guts to tell people to demand better journalism, Banfield has been strongly reprimanded by her bosses at MSNBC. That’s the sorry state of American journalism, folks. Maybe Banfield was prescient when she said in her lecture:

I’m afraid there’s not a really big place in cable for news. Cable is for entertainment, as it’s turning out, but not news.

The only nourishment for a free republic is a free and responsible press. From what Banfield said, we probably shouldn’t be surprised that our republic is starving.