I don’t pretend to be an expert in journalism. But I know that the 24/7 televised news media in America is a disgrace, with few exceptions. It’s abysmal.
I am a news junkie. My small experience in working for the news department at my university’s radio station has increased my appreciation for good reporting, which is one of the most important things in the world.
In the film “Spotlight”, we see the power of good journalism and the incredibly moral influence it can have. Pursuing the truth at all costs is as noble as it gets. And it’s hard.
Journalists put themselves in danger for the truth. They travel across the world to war zones and third world countries. They hold the powerful accountable. They ask the hard questions. They filter through the noise.
But the days of Walter Cronkite, Edward R. Murrow, Tom Brokaw, Peter Jennings, and Dan Rather (despite how you may feel about the events around his resignation) are over.
The trust between the people and their television journalists is practically gone. And for good reason.
There are obviously still sources of television journalism that have integrity, like 60 Minutes and PBS. But these are no longer the core of the tv news world; it’s now the 24/7 major news channels like CNN, FOX News, and MSNBC.
The problem is, they aren’t really news.
FOX News and MSNBC are partisan and foolish in their own ways. They cater to their base that is politically swayed right and left.
But CNN, which I believe tries to be down the middle politically, is the worst of the three.
It’s a shame, because CNN could be the best, but they continuously sell themselves out.
The 2016 election exemplifies this.
Donald Trump is a creation of Tea Party zealots and the media, plain and simple. Channels like CNN have people arguing and scratching their heads, asking how Trump became the presumptive Republican nominee.
They can’t recognize that they have spearheaded the drama that has stuck to Trump like glue and made people attracted to him. For the past year, CNN has become the Trump channel.
CNN will back out of a televised interview with the President of the United States, talking about his Supreme Court nominee at the university where he taught Constitutional law, in order to have more talking heads arguing about Trump for ratings.
Channels like CNN are entertainment channels with a few moments of journalism.
Documentaries on CNN can be informative and interesting. But everything else is straight drama. It’s either Trump, the 2016 rat race drama, or war. Drama, fear, and more drama. Whatever it takes to get ratings.
President Obama, at the White House Correspondents Dinner, said that “Spotlight” was “the best fantasy film since “Star Wars”. He also said “Jake Tapper left journalism for CNN”. There is truth in the humor, and everyone in that room probably knew it.
CSPAN is also the butt of a lot of jokes, but it’s actually closer to what political news should be.
It’s incredibly objective, allows for the voices of the general public, and lets speeches/interviews play out for however long they need to.
Watching a recent congressional hearing on CSPAN about what to do with Guantanamo Bay was more exciting and informative than anything I’ve seen on CNN all year.
Watching 30 minutes of Charlie Rose discuss politics is more educational than weeks of CNN.
And listening to the populace is more interesting than any campaign spokesman CNN has had on their programs repetitively. Is CNN really hoping for interesting and nuanced answers from spokespeople that are on the campaign’s payroll?
There are times where 24/7 news can be valuable, like for broadcasting primary and election results, and when there is breaking news.
However, CNN ruins this too, because they seem to be in a perpetual state of breaking news.
The clip from a debate the night before is not breaking news.
Breaking news should be saved for rare moments when something is currently unfolding and has profound implications. That’s Journalism 101, Day 1, and it’s also common sense.
The candidates and politicians watch the media. It influences their own behavior in ways that I believe are not always apparent.
For example, I am convinced that the tone and conduct of the Republican debates was largely created by the dramas and tensions of the media. Of course, Trump also had a great deal to do with this, but he is himself little more than a cable personality.
The candidates, above all, are responsible, but the news media should be above the fray instead basking in it. Covering Trump’s tweets for an entire day does not serve anyone- it is lazy and boring.
I am not above fault. In fact, I watch the 24/7 political media because it can be entertaining, and I feel guilty about it.
The Trump phenomenon is fascinating, and CNN knows that.
But there needs to be more integrity, accountability, and responsibility from the 24/7 news networks.
They are more powerful than they’d like to admit.
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Cover Photo Credit: llee_wu/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)