The topic trended on social media following a New York Times op ed piece called Professors- we need you! by Nicholas Krystoff. The polemic was ostensibly supportive of greater academic engagement in media, but it accused professors of isolating themselves by wrapping their thoughts in arcane language and pursuing esoteric research topics. The Puritan ethic is alive and well in the USA, and simplicity and clarity of expression are highly prized, even when the logic of argument may be deeply flawed. Krystoff quoted Anne-Marie Slaughter, a former dean at Princeton, saying that all disciplines have become more specialised and less accessible. The argument is that academics, in effect, have marginalised themselves from mainstream media.
The situation is rather different in Britain. It is axiomatic for the more one-eyed of us Brits that the BBC and our other great organs of record are more balanced and rigorous than those in the rest of the world. In the UK, American media tend to be selectively held up to ridicule, and some media brands such as Fox News provide plenty of satirical material. But, after some months of watching US TV, I felt that there seemed to be a quality of logical engagement and an interest in genuine debate, even on populist shows like the (now canned) Piers Morgan show or the more serious Anderson Cooper show on CNN. Most strikingly, American TV interviewees were given time to make their point, which they usually did with fluency and clarity. If they miss the point of the question or evade it in their answer, the interviewer politely brings them back to it.
On UK TV current affairs shows, in contrast, star broadcast journalists take an adversarial position and interrupt guests, creating a breathless atmosphere that usually results in everyone talking past each other. Often, guests are shoehorned into a format that allows for little interrogation. On occasion, I've been shoved in front of camera without a word of warning from producers about who my fellow interviewees will be or even what line of discussion the interviewer will take. It's a rent-a-quote format that generates exposure and energy, but little genuinely engaged debate.