Thursday, January 28, 2010

This Just In...

I am becoming increasingly annoyed with the prominent news media; and to a larger extent, disincline to feel that the information they purvey has much relevance to my daily life. What I am seeing, hearing and reading does not jive with my understanding of what network media refer to as journalism.

Recently one of the major TV news programs ran a story about the economy; the interviewed a woman, working as a graphic artist, about how she thought the economy is faring. With thousands of potential experts upon which they could draw among them, economists, government officials, business or financial managers, the news media instead offered their millions of viewers the uninformed opinion of a very nice looking nobody. What am I supposed to do with this nice lady’s uninformed opinion?

Local news is much worse regarding this kind of reporting. Often covering the scene of an accident or fire, for example, they ask the neighbors what they “think”. These interviews usually consist of the subject’s reaction to the event; the opinion provides no substantive additional information regarding the news item. The reaction of people to an event is NOT news.

A major criticism of 24-hour news networks is that they need to make every moment of every item sound as though there is imminent threat or peril. A good friend of mine started having trouble sleeping at night soon after his extended cable TV service was installed. He was being constantly barraged with news stories about terrible crisis and danger which was about to befall us at any moment.

Of course, the media has to keep an impending sense of urgency otherwise news becomes boring (it is already for me) and people will stop watching… and their accompanying commercials. Not only is the sky falling but it is in continual freefall if you subscribe to any of the 24-hour news programs.

Public opinion options
Occasionally I would get excited about one issue or another and write letters to the editor to my local newspaper. At our newspaper letters could not be anonymous. I fully support that concept; if you have a strong opinion about an issue you ought to stand behind it and put your name to it. But newspapers, on their online versions, and television station web sites, allow for reader-viewer comments. Because these are facilitated through anonymous user profiles, anyone can say anything with almost no impunity. Of what use is that? How does that lead to responsible public discourse?

To me, the anonymous opinions posted on these sites carries the same level of consideration I would give to the cowards who hide their faces under white hoods. Why else would you hide in shame?

Projection and speculation.
Much of what is offered as journalism is not reporting what has happened but projecting and speculating on what someone thinks is going to happen next. A plane crashes and “experts” are called in to speculate regarding what they think “might” have caused the crash. Speculation is not news – wait for the investigation to be completed then report the facts.

In situations were some grievous policy error or judgment has resulted in some type of loss, the media often starts asking “who is going to get fired”. We Americans really love firing people. We even have an entertainment show with billionaire Donald Trump; viewers hanging on every second until he utters the two words we breathlessly await fall on someone other than ourselves. Sick.

Human interest stories
Increasingly the nightly network news has some soft fluffy cuddly story about someone doing a selfless or generous activity. Noble as these acts are, why are they news? Millions of people give selflessly to others or their community daily and routinely. Why is this on the national news?

Forgotten coverage
I would think that one of the saddest aspects of being one of our soldiers stationed in our current wars is that they are forgotten. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are now “old news” and not worth covering least the media bore their audience.

In another week the tragedy in Haiti will be off the mainstream media's radar. Old news.

I would like every news organization, television, and radio, print, to end their programs every night with the following information updated daily: The number of soldiers killed to date in our theaters of war, the amount of the national debt, and the number of people in this country with no health coverage. Let viewers see that every night.

At the publication of this post:
Number killed in the Iraq and Afghan wars: 5,304
Amount of the national debt: $12,100,659,615.75
People with no health coverage: 46 million (estimated)


Charlie said...

No news is, in fact, no news. I neither watch nor read any of it for that reason.

I'll stick to The Winnebago Man.

GutsyWriter said...

I agree which is why I watch World Focus news which gives me a broader view of what's happening around the world. No wonder many Americans have a negative attitude or lump people into broad categories as the enemy, because our media does not give glimpses oh how we are all human beings striving for the same: a safe life for our family and food on the table. On World Focus news, they showed how Afghani men are working in bordering Iran, in contruction and send their money back to their families at home. They compared it to the Mexicans in the U.S. I saw a completely different type of Afghan man, who is a loving father and educated, but runs to Iran to be able to work and support his family. Never seen these kind of stories on U.S. nightime news. This one example gives the world a smaller more human global perspective.

Robert the Skeptic said...

Charlie: I stopped taking the local newspaper a few years ago and we have even discontinued listening to Public Radio when we get up in the morning. I have grown very suspicious of the media now.

Gutsy: We can get BBC World News on public radio here, but I never know when it airs. Our media is so good at promoting the exceptional sensation. Right now people are terrified to drive their Toyota vehicles, 19 deaths supposedly attributed to a sticky throttle, yet 40,000 die each year in car accidents due to completely other causes. The media plays into the inability of people to sort out probability and risk. It is shameful.

Mary Witzl said...

Is there really a show featuring people getting fired? Can there really be people who find that entertaining? Oh, the things I miss not watching t.v.!

I check out the Guardian weekly and the NY Times, online. I know I'm missing out on a lot, but after reading this, maybe that isn't so bad...