Saturday, April 13, 2013

All The News I Can Use - Really?

"In the infancy of mass communications, the Columbus and Magellan of broadcast journalism, William Paley and David Sarnoff, went down to Washington to cut a deal with Congress. Congress would allow the fledgling networks free use of taxpayer-owned airwaves in exchange for one public service. That public service would be one hour of air time set aside every night for informational broadcasting, or what we now call the evening news. Congress, unable to anticipate the enormous capacity television would have to deliver consumers to advertisers, failed to include in its deal the one requirement that would have changed our national discourse immeasurably for the better. Congress forgot to add that under no circumstances could there be paid advertising during informational broadcasting. They forgot to say that taxpayers will give you the airwaves for free and for 23 hours a day you should make a profit, but for one hour a night you work for us." ~ Aaron Sorkin - The Newsroom: The 112th Congress (#1.3) (2012)

I woke up earlier than normal the other morning, so I turned on one of the major TV networks, figuring I'd start the day with a bit of news. At a time when; Kim Jong-un is pointing missiles at Tokyo & South Korea, Congress is trying to iron out a gun control strategy which will address recent events without alienating 2nd amendment activists, and our President is trying to sneak cuts in Social Security past his liberal base; the morning news show I was watching treated me to a recap of Dancing With The Stars and a story about one of the "New Kids On The Block," now in his forties, getting hair plugs.

I had to turn it off, because I could feel my brain going numb. Don't misunderstand, I'm not suggesting that everything on TV needs to be high brow.  I, for one, love food shows and SciFi. I love learning new recipes, seeing what people eat around the world, watching a certain British chef rip into oblivious restaurateurs, and heroes in spaceships blasting aliens.

While I'm entertained by those things, when I turn on the "the news" I don't want to see a rundown of Gwyneth Paltrow's newest cookbook or learn which blush highlights a middle aged red head's cheek bones. Save those stories for FOOD NETWORK or O. When I turn on the news, I want to see "up to date stories meant to successfully inform and educate the American electorate."

Even with cable, we can't get access such reporting for most of the day, here on the west coast. CNN, for example, airs its final hour of CNN Newsroom from noon 'til 1pm, then the network reverts to a string of opinion based talk shows such as;

The Lead with Jake Tapper: The return of Anthony Weiner: Disgraced congressman considers run for NYC mayor,
The Situation Room: Wolf Blitzer brings you the latest in political news and international events, 
Erin Burnett OutFront: Anthony Weiner stages a comeback. Do sex scandals still matter?
Anderson Cooper 360ยบ: AC360° exclusive: Former Rep. Gabby Giffords and her husband, Mark Kelly, talk about her recovery and efforts to change gun laws,
Piers Morgan Live: America's ongoing gun debate: The deal proposal that would expand background checks on sales of firearms.

These shows cover topics within the news, but often feature boisterous WWE caliber arguing and opinion bashing in order to appeal to the lowest common denominator.  Red faced activists and self proclaimed influence peddlers customarily interrupt the host, with the idea that the loudest argument will eventually be accepted as the right argument.

 photo tv-news-logos.jpgCNN Headline News isn't much better, having broadcast entire blocks of live testimony in the Jodi Arias murder trial.  Although vivid descriptions of her abusive relationship, with Travis Alexander, satisfied voyeuristic appetites across the country, the broadcasts offered no real informative value to anyone not on the jury.

If I had my way, news shows would feature straight no nonsense reporting on important stories on; politics, economics, crime, national security, and global events; and stories involving kids fashion, celebrity gossip, diet tips, make-up tips, etc.... would be confined to non-news shows & networks.

I have little, if any, hope of having my wish granted.   The simple truth is, these non-news stories boost ratings and sell products.

Many Americans say they're tired of sex scandals on news, yet viewer ratings seem to sky rocket for any show featuring stories about Charlie Sheen's antics, Tom Cruise's divorce from Katie Holmes, and Angelina Jolie's relationship with Brad Pitt.

As these titillating tales boost ratings & commercial prices, the aforementioned stories on; kids fashion, celebrity hair plugs, diet tips, and make-up tips; are selling; kids clothes, Hair Club memberships, diet books, and lip stick; reducing such segments to virtual infomercials.

Being fed a steady diet of media regurgitated Pablum, instead of hard news has taken its toll on the populace.  According to a nation wide survey/quiz, twenty-nine percent of Americans can't name the Vice-President, yet Kim Kadashian, a woman known for dating famous men and partying with Paris Hilton, has over seventeen million Twitter followers.

Think about it.

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