That, or just trolling.
That, or just trolling.
Considering the conflicts currently taking place in Mali and Syria as well as important political events in Pakistan and Egypt, I thought that today I would see how these are being covered by major American news outlets.
CNN – “the worldwide leader in news” – decided to run with Lance Armstrong on the front page.
Now, it’s not that CNN doesn’t have a story on Mali; it’s just that it’s hidden underneath 10 feet of rubbish.
And while I found a Mali story on CNN, there was nothing to be found on Syria, Pakistan or Egypt. Too much news on moisturizing jeans I guess.
ABC News does not fare much better. More Lance, less Pat Robertson wife pageantry and a slide-show dedicated to nipple slippage. Luckily, these stories are not the top headlines. These are.
Depressed with ABC, I thought that maybe Fox News would be a better source for today’s events (no I didn’t). Being mavericks, Fox decided that its headline should be different, so they led with a plane story.
Not bad, although I still don’t think that it’s the most important story of the day. But I guess I can take solace in the fact that these headlines were only secondary.
NBC and CBS’s headlines are on the hostage crisis in Algeria, which is fair enough. Although I can still make fun of them because of stuff like this.
Even the Washington Post’s main story is puzzling. Is this really the best you can come up with?
All of this to say that I’m not surprised. I understand what drives the media (profit) and I understand that more hits are generated by talking about a disgraced bicyclist and his shrunken testicle(s) than something that actually matters (a civil war, perhaps). And I guess we can blame ourselves. Today’s most popular stories on Huffington Post had more to do with male contractions than about international relations or political instability.
At some point, though, shouldn’t we demand more from the media? Shouldn’t they be informing us rather than entertaining us?
I’m enough of a realist to know that this won’t happen under our current system of economic incentives, which is why I support the idea of a publicly funded media outlet. The incentive of a public broadcaster is not simply profit (say goodbye to news stories about moisturizing jeans), but about informing the citizenry.
As more and more news outlets attempt to increase profit by running sensationalist/meaningless/partisan banter, there are fewer reputable options available to find informative news. But the fact that it’s more difficult to find good news is less of a tragedy than the fact that our economic system is turning news into entertainment and, thus, making the public more ignorant about the world today.
The point of the media is to inform the public and hold accountable various actors, such as governments and businesses. When functioning properly, the media acts as a crucial element of democratic countries. When compromised, the media undermines democracy and accountability, serving only specialized interests.
When the media is criticized today, it is generally shallow and partisan; either the media is too liberal or too conservative. I do not believe the media’s main problem is its place on the political spectrum. Yes, certain media outlets can act too partisan. But in general, I believe calling the media liberal or conservative is a clever political ploy. Saying the CBC is left-wing eventually forces the CBC to move to the right which, in turn, moves all political talk right of where it used to be. And calling the mainstream media “liberal” is a genius tactic by conservatives to explain away any political wrongdoing by conservatives and any political rightdoing by liberals. If it is reported on the news that the U.S. unemployment rate has fallen, this is attributed simply to “liberal bias” and not Obama’s policies. Similarly, if Sarah Palin calls Africa a country, media reports of this are explained away by shouts of “liberal bias.”
These are simply political ploys and do not get at the real problem with mainstream media. The media’s main problem today, particularly in the U.S. is its laziness and sensationalism. This stems naturally from our economic system that demands profit. Private media outlets need to attract advertisements, so they need to attract viewership. It is not profitable, therefore, to research a story in-depth and report on important global issues. Instead, the media focuses on trivial matters and stories that would be better suited for MTV or TMZ.
Recently, over about four days, I decided to take screenshots of some of CNN’s featured stories. This is a very unscientific way of proving my point, but I think it it’s effective nonetheless. CNN has moved from a valuable news organization to one that drives viewership by appealing to populist and unimportant “stories.”
|I’m not sure if they do it just because of their popularity or because there’s an actual corporate interest involved, but I’ve noticed that CNN loves to promote Facebook and Apple.||Sure, thousands of people are dying in Syria protesting a brutal regime. But this turtle was really old.||
The feel-good story of the year.
|Well, at least it will make me feel better about myself.||I don’t even want to know.||Alright, fine, I watched this one.|
Even if they did fight, I’m not sure how this would qualify as news.
|Just a regular New Yorker. Nothing to see here.||
So do I, but you don’t see CNN making a story about that.
|I know CNN is trying to attract viewership, but who exactly would click on something like this?||In other news, the sky is still blue and water is still wet.|
|Self-explanatory.||I honestly have no idea what this means, but I’m sure it’s terrible.||Isn’t it where you go and worship Tom Cruise?|
|Okay, this isn’t as bad. But still. This fails to be relevant in any possible way.||I know that feeling.||I hope that dog has good insurance.|
|Quality journalism.||First of all, don’t say “gotta.” Second of all, what the hell?||
No. I refuse.