Media Rare

There is good news and bad news today. I like good news a lot more than bad news, but I like bad news more than what qualifies as "news" on television these days.

The good news is that our President is on the job. He have a very nice interview to 60 minutes covering the vast scope of all the crises our country currently faces, showing exceptional resilience in the face of incredible obstacles. He also fielded an interesting online forum today, even answering questions a typical politician might deem unseemly. It's good to have a president that's willing to get his hands dirty.

The bad news is the "news" didn't really care about that, and instead got all riled up that Obama laughed once during his interview with 60 minutes. You can get the whole story on that here.

The key here is less that the media blew something out of proportion, but more that they ignored important issues by doing so. This isn't an isolated incident, but a daily, even hourly occurrence. Quite simply, the 24-hour news networks are to insightful coverage what Trivial Pursuit is to a dissertation on the transformation of the nation's zeitgeist. CNN, NBC and FOX are great at provoking and expounding meaningless trivia, but are not thought-provoking or informative.

This is not only a shame, but harmful. Given 40 minutes of interview to pour over, discuss, critique, and grapple with these networks decided that a few seconds of rueful laughter were more newsworthy. I ask a simple question, "How does this help or inform the public?" The trick is that from the perspective of the networks I asked the wrong question. Their version of the question would be, "Does this entertain the public?" The public doesn't want to be informed, they posit, they want to be entertained. Thinking thus, the networks have evolved themselves into a faux-respectable televised tabloid.

While I can't claim I'd watch 24 hours of Jim Lehrer's News Hour, it would do the country good if such a channel came to replace these worthless husks.

1 comment:

360 Trooper said...

The problem is revenue. Yes, people would watch more informative and intelligent news. But would it be enough people?

I think there's a bit of a chicken and egg problem here. Some people prefer entertainment over news, so news networks focus on entertaining rather than informing in an effort to cast a wider net. Over the years, this conditions audiences to expect more entertainment than information, thereby creating further demand. The networks started it, but we bought into it. If you want them to stop, then the vast majority of Americans have to agree with you and stop watching it. Unfortunately, we're also fairly well convinced that this "entertainews" is actually informative.

At the end of the day, it all falls down to profit. You can make it informative, but if you can't make it profitable you can't sustain it. And if you think you can get a big enough audience, I'd like to remind you that FOX News is still highly successful.