Why TV News In the U.S.A. Is Complete Garbage

Consuming news from CNN, MSNBC, ABC, NBC Nightly News, NPR, CBS, the News Hour with Jim Lehrer or Fox is a frustrating experience. It always seems like they are doing something other than reporting.

Stories are 30 seconds long. If possible, the focus of the story is reduced to one personal factoid concerning the subject. Anchors are constantly talking over the video, paraphrasing whoever is being shown on screen, assuming the hopes and fears of somebody and then a commentator does the same thing then they argue about which one of them made the more convincing impersonation. What is going on here?

Kieren McCarthy writing in the UK Guardian has a helpful analysis of this phenomenon. He breaks down seven reasons for the failures of US TV news, condensed here:

1. The analysis of what someone has said is clearly bent by the reporters themselves along ideological lines.
2. The media reports constantly on itself.
3. The focus is entirely on the back story, and the actual news is given lip-service.
4. There is never a neutral statement – it is always an extreme perspective.
5. There is absolutely no effort to provide historical context.
6. Coverage is deeply cynical in the sense that people are assumed to have a hidden and planned agenda even when the connection drawn would have been impossible to predict as it doesn’t follow logical reasoning.
7. There is no effort to reach a greater understanding. Instead, the sole intent is to provoke disagreement and partisan perspective – with the anchor used solely to egg on disagreement.

Every segment on U.S. news crams as many of these mistakes into 30 seconds as possible.

This is especially true of the endlessly irritating Sunday chat shows, because the pundits have time to stretch out and lose their train of thought. Watch 1/2 hour of CNN’s morning show and you’ll see the same in bits an pieces. This morning, I thought Tony Harris would cry upon suddenly perceiving his nation’s absence of leverage over Russia (over Georgia).

I use the BBC radio as my basic news source. Especially the World Service news channel. Of course, some people don’t like that, or didn’t at one time. At one time, the Saturday Evening Post needed to warned patriotic Americans away from the anti-blandishments of the BBC.

BBC news boadcasts have a peculiar style which would never satisfy an American audience. They give the plain facts, the barest essentials of the story, without any explanation, comment, background, interpretation of even colorful description. Every news broadcaster is trained to speak in a calm imperturbable voice, betraying no emotion or even interest in anything he says. As a means of avoiding anything which might sound like propaganda, this method is highly successful.

Britain’s Bid To Rule The Air Waves. p. 58 John Chabot Smith The Saturday Evening Post,November 16, 1946.

Well who wants that? Of course now there is as much blathering by journalists as you’ll find in the US, but at least it isn’t completely Washington-centric and the choice of guests is more impressive. This morning i heard the World Service interviewing Immanuel Wallerstein on the multipolar world.


Posted on August 13, 2008, in BBC, Digital Radio, News and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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