What happened to the news?

But we are at war, and we here at THE DAILY SHOW will do our best to keep you informed of any late-breaking…humor we can find. Of course, our show is obviously at a disadvantage compared to the many news sources that we’re competing with… at a disadvantage in several respects. For one thing, we are fake. They are not. So in terms of credibility we are, well, oddly enough, actually about even.
~Jon Stewart

I’m one of those crazy people who doesn’t regularly keep up with news. I occasionally glance at the paper at work when I’m bored and taking a minute or two break from rolling burritos, and only give the briefest of looks at the “news” items that pop up when I log into my email. I figure if it’s important someone will inform me of it, usually via Livejournal (sad as that fact is).

It really turns me off when I see a celebrity’s latest drunken scandal presented as “news.”

News is the earthquake that struck Haiti.
News is the bill that was recently signed into law in Arizona.
News is the death of Michael Jackson or some other notable person.

News is NOT gossip or scandal or “O HAY LUK DRAGON IS #1 AT THE BOX OFFICE AGAIN!” That’s not fucking news.

Yes, there are people who are interested in celebrity scandal or box office hits. But this is news for supermarket tabloids and entertainment sections, respectively. This shit does not need to be on the front page of my email service. It is not news.

I don’t watch news anymore because every other item is something idiotic. There is a world of politics and items of import out there and the newscasters are constantly going “Oh! Look what so-and-so wore last night!” or “Here is a human interest story about a small child!”

And that’s not even getting into the bullshit that is the news stations themselves. “Fair and balanced” my ass. Even science has a hard time remaining objective, I certainly don’t expect that a news station has it figured out nice and pat. GSC already touched on this particular subject so I won’t go into more detail.

I also have to agree with the Unitarian Jihad that instead of going for people who have actually thought about the issues and genuinely want to discuss them, news agencies attempt to find the most wacko nutjobs they possibly can and have them fight. It’s a high-class Jerry Springer. Is the news supposed to be informative or entertaining? Please pick one, stick with it, and quit lying to us. If I want to be entertained while I watch the news, I’ll put on the Daily Show or the Colbert Report. They don’t pretend to be something they’re not. In fact, those are the only shows I watch when I actively seek out news. Comedy Central does a better job of newscasting than any other television station I’ve run across. And that’s fucking sad.

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5 Responses to “What happened to the news?”

  1. grillingsacredcows Says:

    Since you pinged my site, I shall give my two cents on this rather multifaceted issue.

    First off, watch any news program and what will you see between the articles? Commercials. News programs are thus corporately sponsored. Those sponsorships go away as soon as you start reporting bad things about said sponsors. So poor employment practices, dangerous products, wage stagnation in the face of massive profit increases, and massive exec bonuses gets swept under the rug. Celebrity gossip and human interest stories tend to be pretty safe in terms of not upsetting the advertisers.

    The other way you lose advertisers is not having viewers. And as someone who stays up on political and economic issues, let me just say that to the average viewer, these issues are boring. Facts are boring. Numbers are boring. Boring loses you viewers. However, when the political pundits speak all sorts of charged up whatnot, regardless of truth, people watch. When O’Riley calls out Olbermann or vise versa, people watch. Obama’s dog or the fact that he bowed to the Japanese emperor is far more entertaining and dramatic than his most recent executive decision or what he actually spoke to the emperor about. In order to keep ratings, news has become entertainment. Entertainment does not care about integrity.

    • grillingsacredcows Says:

      I would like to add, after thinking of this, I was reminded of a video I had seen of Dan Rather speaking of the state of the American media. I spent some time searching for it, and I found it. The link is below:

  2. I disagree with you completely. I hate seeing celebrities drunken escapades, but it is news. It may not be news you WANT TO SEE, but it is news. Both movies and celebrities are part of the social landscape and change it just as effectively as a bill going into law, only in a more subtle intangible way. Take Avatar for example. Avatar was a smash in the box office, and the social ramifications of it’s success and what it means for tweaking the green movement with its undertones, makes an impact. Part of the reson it does so well is that the social climate is big on green issues right now. Had this movie come out during a period where people were ANTI-green issues, it would had bombed. This says something about the social climate right now and where it’s going. War of the Worlds radio show CERTAINLY changed our society. As did Jurassic Park- faulty as it was, that movie changed how scientists viewed T-rex and how he stood, ran and walked.

    What’s funny is you actually make reference to this fact in this exact post! You mention Michael Jackson as a “notable person” being news and his death impacting society being news. Guess what? He wouldn’t have been said noticeable person if the news HADN’T reported all his hits and performances, or hadn’t boosted his popularity far and wide, even to places like Japan and India. His advertisers certainly played their part, but they were only part of the reason he got so far (along with his talent and charisma). It was the news and reporting that did that. (It also happens to be how I find some of MY favorites- I hear a passing blurb in the news and wonder “wait, why is that so popular.” or “Hey, that artist did something spectacularly cool” that I’d have never heard about through any means other than news.) Furthermore, movies, ESPECIALLY box office movies, effect economics. Dreamworks is a HUGE company and this year ranked 3rd best company by Fortune magazine to work for. Even if I -weren’t- planning on going into the movie industry, I’d want to know that their movies are hitting box office on a regular basis because I’d want to work for one of the companies in that top 100 in some capacity. Same way I want to know what Apple and Miscrosoft and Walmart are doing. They’re big names and I want to know what they’re doing.

    Or another example, gay celebrities. A celebrity outs himself as gay and that changes the landscape massively. It shows the gay community in a good light and makes gay people unconsciously more accepted because X celebrity is good, makes good movies, doesn’t have drunken escapades. If he has a drunken escapade I DAMN well want to know about it, because I know as a lesbian woman _I_ will be hearing about it later and my community may have backlash from it. If Brittany Spears has a drunken marriage which is annulled the next day, I may HATE the news that day and disparage the fact that some drunk idiot did some BS like that and it got headlines, but I do want to know about it or at the very least be able to find news records of it. That incident shows the social landscape for how marriage is treated. An example like that is stronger than an example of my two friends only staying married for two years for the simple fact of it being part of the social landscape now and -everyone- knows about it.

    The news shows ALL news for ALL sections, not just sections that interest you or change the world overall. The sections that may seem stupid and inane to you are not necessarily so to everyone and they impact economics, and culture, and have social ramifications that others like me DO find important. They show what is going on in the social and cultural landscape overall, from box office movies to drunken stupid celebrities.

    News companies/stations are also businesses and as such report things that people are interested in to make money. If they didn’t make money, there would be no news reported at all. If you don’t like what people are interested in, then don’t gripe about the news. Gripe about peoples skewed values that they are more interested in seeing a drunken escapade than hearing about a new bill in Arizona.

    • If what I considered “news” was what I considered “newsworthy” I would be arguing for in-depth coverage of E3 in the Chronicle.

      So I should say that differently…there are things that are “news” and there are things that are “newsworthy.” Drunken escapades and box-office hits should be relegated to the entertainment section and specialty news sections, much as E3 coverage is limited to the same. If we’re going to argue that all news is newsworthy, then I’m going to demand the Chronicle have a damn front-page full-color article on the next Elder Scrolls game. Because I want to know what Bethesda’s doing.

      But I don’t demand that because while it is “news,” and news I am very interested in (as would be a person who is trying to decide what gaming company would be good to work for), it is not “newsworthy.”

      And I think GSC’s comment sufficiently covered the skewed values bit.

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