Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The News Today, Oh Boy!

John Lennon said it best when he sang the line "I read the news today, oh boy." The fact that the line states he "read the news today" rather than "saw the news today"  or  "I tweeted the news today, oh boy." suggests a time when news was delivered differently.  I'm not sure the difference is a better way, what with fewer and fewer people getting the news from papers there is less time to gather the facts of the news. Today news is  not gathered, collected, researched or compiled, it is just regurgitated with no more background information than raw video from a Go Pro strapped to a daredevil.

I remember when Ted Turner first announced he was going to fund a television station that would be 24/7 news called CNN. At the time it seemed to me that one hour of news a day from the existing networks was more than sufficient.  It took  at least 24 hours to gather the relevant facts, check them out and report them during the next full broadcast.  Somewhere along the line the news reporters and broadcasts stopped reporting on the news and became participants.  Instead of a knowledgeable journalist analyzing a story that had been researched and dissected, the job was replaced by observers giving knee jerk reactions to a story still unfolding.

We have been lulled into the fact that when CNN cuts live to a Breaking Story, it is not very informative.  They are just showing the same video over and over repeating the same cursory information.  Until officials have a chance to investigate what happened there is no facts for the news.   But with a 24/7 news cycle you will never hear "details at 10:00".  The situation continues to play out live on the air, as details trickle in as they are received. There is no way to know in that moment if the detail is correct or merely a speculation.  In their rush to be the first to report some fact the 24/7 news cycle more times than not they broadcast opinion or at best a semi-intelligent guess.  The same can be said for all the other 24/7 new stations the only difference is the political slant that each station attaches to the occurrence.

With this philosophy for what passes as the news plays out we are more apt to get the wrong information. In the heat of the event rumor and speculation get disseminated. Later when that "fact" is repudiated the correction is buried.  If a person only hears the early stages of a crisis what they know of the situation is not complete.

By the time the correct information has been gathered the error, the speculation and the rumor are flying around social media repeated so often it begins to have a ring of truth.  It has been said that a fact becomes true to the believer when a story is repeated by three different sources. If you consider all your friends on Facebook to be a "different source" then you have hundreds of reinforcements with dozens of comments to boot.  I have seen posts stated as absolute fact when a quick check with would prove the opposite.  It has never been easier to find the truth, but you can not find it by just listening and accepting everything you read.

So here is my hope. Take it upon yourselves to know what is true and what is not.  Don't take the news reports at face value. The goal of 24/7 news is not to keep the public informed.  The goal of all news today is to sell product advertising.  Why tell the important facts about a story in 10 minutes when you can sell advertising all day by covering every moment waiting for the next piece of information to come.  With all forms of instant communication there is no way to miss the next important turn in the story, it will be plastered in notifications all over a smart phone the minute it happens.

The day after the Brexit vote Google was overtaken by British searchers trying to find out more about the EU. That was too late to be informed after the vote had been taken.  The very same information existed the day before the vote as it did after the vote.  Where were the reporters of old before the vote? Where were the reporters who tried to give all the researched facts about what this vote would mean?  They were around but were drowned out by emotional posts and trolling tweets that had none of the facts but plenty of the popular jingoism.

The difference in the vote for Britain to leave the EU and votes to stay was only 4% points.  In todays' world when gossip travels as fast as the news I would suggest that at least 4% of the voters in Britain were totally uninformed by the facts before they voted. To me that's a low number and the actual percentage of ignorant voters is probably much higher.  The point is, WE THE PEOPLE can not allow 4% of the "uninformed" to decided the future.  WE THE PEOPLE must be informed voters, not emotional voters, we must be long sighted and not myopic.

As you were,


P. Grecian said...

Yeah. And, while it may be true that a large percentage of oncamera news people are liberal...the ownership is "The Liberal Media" is clearly a misnomer. I think the television news business began to crumble when, just after the Murrow and Cronkite era, electronic media began handing over control of the news departments to the sales departments.
News departments had not, prior to this, been seen as cash cows. In fact, they often operated at a loss that was made up by the entertainment division...because news SHOULDN'T be about profit.
And then, yeah, the mistake of 24-hour news.
I'm happy to know I could go to a network and know instantly what's happened.
But the other side of that coin is that the people providing the news have to keep pumping out...something, in order not to have dead air (a huge sin in broadcast) and in order to be assured the viewership isn't going to turn to another channel.
And so they go looking for what's "developing."
The answer may be, ultimately, to take the news division out of the hands of the sales department, expect the news department to operate at a loss, and try to build some actual news coverage.
But I, for one, certainly don't see THAT happening.
"And that's the way it is."
Film at eleven.

Jeff Martin said...

Well thought out and well written.-