Monday, November 10, 2014

Tyranny of the 24 Hour News Cycle

It does not take a university level course on marketing to see that news sources are more truthfully in the business of entertainment than in the business of accurate information dissemination.  If a “story” excites, titillates, captures the mind, it is successful, despite its truth.  To observers, the current mode of public information distribution seems more like onscreen supermarket tabloids than the down-to-earth news given by respectful predecessors like Walter Cronkite, Jules Bergman, Chet Huntley, and David Brinkley.  These days, entertainment trumps accurate reporting.
            The problems inherent within an insatiable need for more information at breakneck speed include lack of verification, HYPE!, misinformation, professional “talking heads,” speculation without sufficient data, and the race to be “First”.  After all first-and-foremost means top entertainer.  The list of such inaccuracy generating issues could go on and on.

            In the 24/7 cycle, people or perhaps institutions are blamed or praised at the outset, according to the political bent of the station. Then, political correctness (either right-wing or left-wing) is added to the mix; now we have an attention-getting story that can be repeated every 15 minutes for 24-72 hours or until some new disaster pops up.  Advertising is sold hand-over-fist according to the ratings that any news show gathers through it’s stage show.

            The Texas Hospital Ebola exposure presents a good example of how the blame game feeds the fire of the news-show/entertainment industry. Here, the hospital, nurses, physicians, Emergency Department, Electronic Health Record, Homeland Security,  and the TSA were all good candidates to blame, and each was hit sequentially according to the texture of the moment. Rather than taking a systematic review of the entire process, a tangible scapegoat was needed, and someone, some individual, had to have failed, rather than the system as an interconnected entity. However, this was instead, a system failure. When you blame an individual for a system problem, finger pointing immediately occurs. “It was not my fault, but was a result of someone else’s incompetence (certainly not mine!).”  That generates interest, attention from the masses, and channel habits, being psychologically less boring than saying “Hey, look, the system just failed.” There is nothing more dull or tedious for the human psyche than to have no one to blame.
            Gun control, abortion, immigrations, health care, race, and welfare stories always lead to an immediate pro or con response without analyzing the individual merits of the case. For the sake of the modesty of this blog, nothing further will be said regarding the visual appeal of the female news anchors that always seem to appear.  In real life, there just are not that many scantily dressed beautiful women in one place. Seriously? There must be an average looking female journalist somewhere.  But, after all, entertainment is entertainment.  Just saying.

            As one watches Fox, CNN, MSNBC, PBS, and any number of other news stations, their political viewpoint is easily ascertained. Depending on the channel, the CDC was either on top of the situation or “hiding the truth”. Even with talk radio, expected to be along partisan lines, it is easy to hear an underlying “chronic agenda” that is hardly impartial.
            In conclusion, the massive appetite of the 24 hours news cycle does not reflect an overall common sense collective approach to solving problems. Information, provided in this way, and blanketing the media, is thus a major contributing factor toward the endless divisiveness in our society. Would it not be healthier to allow the average person to sit on different sides of an issue, even retaining a bit of ambivalence, without the inherent name calling that derides an absence of political correctness from one or the other perspectives. Occasionally, a reasonable compromise can be a good thing.

No comments:

Post a Comment