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Column: News Station Rivalries Obstruct Useful Election Coverage

This story was written by Jason Marer, Daily News

There are 53 days until the presidential election, and on Nov. 4, America will finally decide on the 44th President in U.S. history. In one corner stands John McCain vs. Barack Obama. The other, Sarah Palin vs. Joe Biden. Collectively, it becomes the Republicans vs. the Democrats.

Simply put, the political clashes in 2008 are endless; but over the course of this election, I have noticed one more important political battle: mass media.

Whether you are a follower of CNN, MSNBC or FOX News, we are well aware of the differences between the news networks. Since the 2000 election, television viewers and journalists, among others, have voiced concerns against bias.

Lately, news networks have been biased, especially since Palin was named Republican vice presidential candidate. While MSNBC has been showing photographs of Palin shooting guns, FOX has put Palin on a pedestal. MSNBC says Palin is too inexperienced, but FOX believes she is the perfect pick.

On Monday, it was announced that MSNBC would be replacing Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews as co-anchors of political night coverage with David Gregory. Olbermann and Matthews will now be used just as commentators. I suppose the freewheeling criticism reached a boiling point. While I enjoy listening to Olbermann's and Matthews' opinionated comments, this is probably fine judgment on MSNBC's part.

Throughout the primaries and summer, I noticed that news networks were becoming less concerned about the news and more about entertainment. Topics of discussion are no longer about the parties' platforms or views, but about Obama's reverend or Palin's ability to parent. At times, these topics could be mentioned. But who cares? I just want to know how each candidate is going to help America prosper. I get it: Obama had a rough childhood. Biden had a stuttering problem. McCain was a POW. Palin is a hockey mom. Move on.

I don't care if FOX News says it is America's Election Headquarters, or that it is fair and balanced. I haven't seen that yet. Have you? MSNBC is the so-called "place for politics." And CNN supposedly equals politics. Ugh! What does this all mean? I see this as advertising, not for political participation, but to influence viewers to watch a particular station. Sickening.

Maybe you enjoy Olbermann and despise O'Reilly, or vise versa. Perhaps you laugh when Stephen Colbert calls FOX News "Fixed News." Or maybe you watch CNN because you think Anderson Cooper is attractive.

Whatever the case, be open-minded and watch all the news stations. As important as it is to vote, your awareness of news and the means by which you receive it is just as crucial. I always flip back and fourth between CNN, MSNBC and FOX. It might take three or four channels, but it's well worth it. I acknowledge entertainment is pleasurable, but news stations need to find the balance between soft and hard news.

When it all comes down to it though, we should be happy that we even have a choice to watch different news networks. None might be worthy, but they're all better than nothing. Nowadays, news pundits are blunt. The gloves are off and anything goes. The cost, however, is leaving Americans with debauchery and biased news.

If anything, America needs Tim Russert right about now.

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