I written about local news in the past (remember the hundreds of capitol district residents literally glued to their TV screens?) but there was a very important lesson they were trying to teach us and I missed it.
News should not, in itself, be entertainment but if it isn't entertaining, people don't watch it. Why should they care about anyone else? What local news taught us was that, in a competitive marketplace, there will be less news and more "personality" - be it schtick or pleas to help the local animal shelter.
|And they thought "Ice Pirates" was dumb?|
In the 90s my job required that I spend a lot of time watching CNN. There were gaping holes in the coverage though - for every good story about an event of global significance, there was a "human interest story" from East Podunk. It isn't that I didn't care about the people of East Podunk, it just wasn't the sort of news I needed.
When the Fox News channel was first announced, I (and most of my peers) were excited. Another source. This will be great. The whole, "only thing better than a 24 hour news network is two 24 hour news networks." Boy were we dumb. There's less news on both networks today. It's all entertainment. Do you remember the summer of the Shark Attacks? I do. It was 2001. My boss said, "Something really bad is going to happen." A month later it did. He gave us a better news report than either of the main networks.
You’ve probably noticed I’m leaving a few networks out. I don't consider MSNBC to be a 24 hours news network. It's more like talk radio with a bit of Phil Donahue thrown in. The foreign networks have a different feel, but are tailored to the North American audience for the feeds we get. You have to be in England (BBC) or outside of the USA (Al-Jazera) to get a less polluted report. You don't have to believe me, but it’s true. (By polluted I mean that international news exported to the USA is softened and then fattened with celebrity gossip, like a heifer in its last weeks.)
Here's the thing. I switch back and forth between CNN and Fox every few hours but the sound is almost always muted because what’s being said is not news. They are both more and more commentary, less and less reporting. If I wanted to know about fashion, I would watch Style. If I wanted to know about cooking there's the FoodNetwork. I get that the road rage motorcycle gang in NYC is a big deal, but stop trying to find a new angle just to keep showing the footage. There are much, much more important things to be reporting on.
"Like what?" you ask. What's going on with Edward Snowden and the NSA? Are tax payers really paying to turn Bradley Manning into Chelsea – and what about the other big military court story and the pledge to close the detention center in GTMO? Where are we in Afghanistan – specifically why has the heroin traffic increased despite the billion dollars spent by the FBI to stop it? Why is there such a discrepancy between the programs/test scores in Los Angeles High Schools based on zip codes? Or Chicago? Or NYC? Don’t all of the kids matter? What happens to the 1 million Facebook accounts that are hacked - every single day?
Today I have to wonder - is 24 hour news still Must See TV? Fox Mulder told us the truth is out there. But where can we find it? What do you think?