Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Tried to watch the news

I was at my daughter's the other day and tried to watch the evening news on the TV. I almost never watch broadcast TV. I do have a TV, but it's for watching the occasional DVD.

But hey, I'm a news junkie. Might as well keep up with the news. There wasn't much else to do.
First the commercials. Way too many of them. Most were about drugs for medical conditions, some of which I'd never even heard of. One observation: women have about 6 times more medical problems than men, judging from the ads.

The news itself? Way too . . . fluffy? Low information density. Fairly high opinion ratio. The propaganda machine's product bores the hell out of me.

Most of my information comes from the Internet. I'm a fast reader. During the time of the average commercial break, I get more hard fact than the product of a whole "news hour." I put that in quotations as it's barely news and certainly not an hour's worth.

Back during my college days I studied Journalism. I think I've got a dusty unused degree in it somewhere around here. One thing my professor would have us do was to take a newspaper and pick out the hard news stories. Even back in the late 90's with a nationally respected newspaper like the NY Times, we'd average about 3 hard news pieces. The rest were puff pieces, press releases, opinion, feature articles, follow up stories, and the rest. New news wasn't a big part of the paper back then, and it's worse now. TV isn't as good as newspapers as far as hard news goes.

Another thing my professor complained about was the lack of depth afforded the average reporter. He once spent 2 weeks researching a story in rural Appalachia. It was a big feature piece in, I believe, The Washington Post. Because of it, he was considered the expert on Appalachia. He said he knew Jack Sh*t about Appalachia. Two weeks is nothing. By newspaper standards, it was a lot. Few news organizations can spend that kind of time on a story these days.

News organizations have made the decision to cut back drastically on its news teams. It shows. The product has gotten a bit thin.

Next time you catch the news from traditional media, be it a newspaper, TV, or radio, try and pick out the hard news stories. Then for fun see if any attempt at unbiased reporting is being made.

News is a business. Business takes care of business. Small example that I know of personally: small town rookie reporter discovers the local car dealership is turning back odometers. Publishes the piece. Newspaper loses its biggest ad revenue: the car dealership. Not a career building exercise.

Go back to old newspapers during the time of the depression. Never did they say the word, depression. There were few articles about how bad the economy was. It was bad for business to say such things. Do you think the news has gotten better about that sort of thing, or worse?

Back to my TV news watching. After about 20 minutes I turned the TV off. There are better ways to waste time.


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