Why Media Passes off Bunk as News
Fark‘s Drew Curtis has an amusing piece the Christian Science Monitor making fun of the fact that mainstream news outlets over-emphasize minor stories that generate ratings over more substantive news. He closes thusly:
So whose fault is all this, the media’s or the public’s? Both. Real news is simply not a ratings leader. Evening network news shows aren’t shown during prime time because they can’t hack it. This is also why prime-time news shows consist almost entirely of celebrity interviews and pedophile arrests. Note which type of “news” gets the better time slot.
It’s looking more and more as though the age of impartial journalism was a temporary blip in history whose reign ended a few years ago when the Internet turned news consumption from all-inclusive (per newspaper) to a la carte (per story).
My forthcoming book offers some solutions. Here’s one: Split 24-hour news channels in two — one carries all the “Fark,” the other carries all the real news. Revenues funnel into the same bank account; everyone wins.
Until that happens, news consumers will have to adjust to a world in which journalistic principles are being thrown out the window in a frantic quest for ratings. And mass media outlets need to make a call: Either report serious news or give up all pretenses.
His appraisal of the situation nails it: People have gotten used to the ability to pick-and-choose their own “news” content and have thus lost the patience to sit through stuff that news professionals think they’re “supposed” to see. Indeed, I have almost completely stopped watching television news, including the Sunday shows, for a similar reason: The ratio of things I couldn’t more efficiently online simply had skewed to the point where it wasn’t worth sitting there 20-40 minutes in front of the television. (And that’s TiVo’ing and scanning past the commercials.)
He then turns around and proposes the most insipid solution imaginable. If the problem is that people are demanding more “junk news” and the journalists are having to sneak in “broccoli news,” how is segregating the two onto different networks going to help? What will promptly happen is that the former will get 90% of the audience and the latter will promptly go belly up.
Curtis is a fairly shrewd businessman. There’s a reason he hasn’t started a second site called “Boring Fark.” Here’s a hint: Both would cost just as much to run but only the regular one would make any money. Sure, the revenues would flow into the same account. But the expenses would flow out, too!