Friday, February 06, 2009

The Media.

I rarely watch TV. The news is much easier to get online; it's much easier to access a wide variety of sources, to learn background information about current events, and to speak to people directly involved in the news at hand. However, I'm wondering if my neglect of television has been a mistake.

I spend a lot of time in a particular coffee shop; I take my laptop here during the day, and sit under a huge flatscreen TV that is forever tuned to CNN. Now, CNN is one of the more reputable news sources out there, especially when compared to Fox News or MSNBC. However, the last few days of exposure to this mainstream news channel have startled me -- CNN is an incredibly polemic channel.

The rhetoric they use is absolutely sensational, although this was easily guessed. But the news they provide is utterly unhelpful -- all about soundbites, entirely one-sided -- I guess, it's everything I've read about mainstream media. The media is constantly denigrated by reasonable people, for a variety of reasons. But the shocking part is: these reasons, they're all true.

I'm watching coverage of the Salmonella outbreak now. They're interviewing a little kid that got Salmonella from peanut butter -- he's spouting words and concepts he clearly doesn't understand: "I think... (pause, looks questioningly off camera) I think we should re... recall all peanut butter products, and... (looks off camera again) ..test them all, and create another federal institution in charge of testing all the food. The FDA isn't keeping me safe. The FDA made me want to die." [Reporter smirks satisfactorily at camera.] The camera pans to some seriously disgusting-looking peanut butter, as the off-screen voice tells us, "The FDA is incapable of keeping us safe. This has been the largest food recall in history."

How is this helpful at all? How does this do anything except incite panic? If CNN were reasonable, they'd put together a nice report on the pros and cons of the FDA, how it's helped, where it's failed, and compare/contrast the possibility of a new food regulatory agency. The situation would have been handled calmly, intelligently, and informed the American people, who will instead undoubtedly be calling their representatives in a panic, screaming blindly for reform. No wonder Americans are ignorant about politics -- this is the news we stand.

Journalism is dying, not because people aren't consuming, but because we all want to be in a reality TV show. The problem is, real life doesn't have an editor to step in and save the day at the end. The more polemic entertainment we demand, the more Americans walk around feeling as though the world will end. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy.

There will, mark my words, be talk of a new regulatory agency in the wake of these outbreaks. And maybe that's a good thing. God knows the FDA is terrible. But will the process be nuanced? Will our choices be educated? I doubt it. This television is sickening. That's what we call the news...


At 1:00:00 AM , Blogger Mitchell said...

No comments for a while and yet you soldier on. I hope you're getting some positive feedback...


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