Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Infotainment: Bad News

On August 11th, 2004, a massive breakthrough in medical science occurred. The British began delving into cloning human stem cells at Newcastle University. The CBS Evening News intended to carry such a gigantic story. Then they changed their minds.

They replaced it with a one minute fifty-two second story about one of their own newsmen. He had been eating a meatloaf when someone had tried to tow his car. He fixed the problem, although he would have to appear in court. The viewers were assured however that the meatloaf tasted fine after being warmed in the microwave. The important story was dropped. Of the others: ABC told it in 19 words, and the last of the big three, NBC, dropped it altogether. America never heard about it, at least not from their major "news" outlets.

America is under informed, and thinks they are highly informed. They hear disconnected stories on Asia, China, and America, but are not told and have no idea how all of these things fit together. Much of the news is for entertainment-infotainment. We feel like we are learning about our world, yet in the end we know very little. Since it is all for entertainment, the anchors or executives would rather tell us what the rock star’s dress looked like than about a civil war in some far off country we have never heard of.

Tom Bettag, news head; stated: “When they say it isn’t about the money, it’s about the money.”

Much of the time it is much cheaper and simpler to package news than to go and get it. The stories become nothing other than other people’s reports stamped with a media slogan. That is why the articles say at the end of them “The Associated Press contributed to this article.”

Much of ours news, or what we think is news, is sensationalism. The nightly news, according to Tom Fenton, former news face for CBS states, in his book Bad News: The Decline of reporting, the Business of news, and the Danger to us all, consists of nineteen minutes of news, and the rest of it is commercials, tabloidism, and headlines to keep you watching.

But, Walter Cronkite says, the media wants to earn money. Not a bad thing, but if they do it honestly. But the people stand for what they get, so they get more of it. Two days ago, while speaking with a friend, we got on the subject of big business. I stated that “big business, and big government, is only as big as we let it get. If we stop buying, the business collapses, if we stop voting for them, the current government changes. It is all up to us.”

I should have added the news media to that list. If we demand better news, we will get it. The people let it be known that they liked Justin Beiber, so now we know when he spits on his neighbor or writes in a guestbook at a museum. If the public let it be known they wanted real news, that they truly wanted to know words events and how it effects them, we would get it.
In the days after the 9/11 attacks we found out that some had known for years of threats, but had never reported them to the general terrorist attacks, but it would bore us. What we don’t know can’t hurt us. Actually, what we don’t know can kill us.

Mr. Fenton ends his book by stating: “America, demand more and better news from those responsible for providing it. It might save all of our lives.”
Andrew C. Abbott

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