I watch the NBC Nightly News out of habit but my source for news is usually internet based. I get a daily email from the NYTimes, check out NPR, and then some tech/geek sites. My wife is a news channel junkie and if she’s in front of the TV anytime other than evening or watching Netflix, it’s going to be CNN or MSNBC. Once in a great while she flip to Faux News to catch if they’re ignoring something the other two are blanketing with coverage or Headline News to see them spin out over the latest missing white girl. Both of us are well aware that cable and broadcast news are no longer good at reporting. No depth, no checking facts, and very little analysis. CNN is particularly good at letting crazy people speak without once checking to see if what they are spouting is true.
Two spots from the Daily Show and Last Week with John Oliver are perfect illustrations of what could be done is the TV news media had some stones. The Daily Show segment is about a hearing in front of the “Science” committee in the US House on climate change and yes, the House does not disappoint in their display of ignorance. Stewart eviscerates them with glee.
The Last Week segment is not exactly hard news but nonetheless a takedown that the news media should have taken on ages ago:
So how did this happen? For one thing budgets for these networks have been sliced to the bone and left many news organizations with little strength to effectively explore an issue. Another is the lazy trend to let both sides of an issue make an argument and be done with it. No need to check facts on either, no need to debunk. It’s not even “we report, you decide”, it’s “we film, we’ll let you sort it out”. The last is mergers and acquisitions. Every TV news source now is just a segment of a giant entertainment consortium. The status quo has very little interest in peeking underneath the bed and they’d rather no one looks at all. But as I have said before, those controlling the message want us focused on the circus, not who is stealing the bread. And all we are left with is a few clowns that aren’t playing the game.