Simple answers: it sucks and pablum

I’ve never done a Truthful Tuesday before, but after reading Fandango’s What’s News? and thinking a bit, I decided I have a few thoughts to add to a discussion on this topic:

What is your honest opinion of the news and how it is shared right now? 
Are we being informed or fed Pablum designed to keep us uninformed and in the dark?

Complex discussion:

Quick note:

Any meaningful discussion of news these days necessitates a bit of background about what sources are being referred to: My consumption of news, is somewhat irregular. I mostly read it. I read the local paper, the Seattle Times, although I often do so on the phone while my husband reads the paper version. I don’t read all of every story. I also read the Economist, as many of you know my son lives in China and the Economist has better international coverage, especially of China, than any US source I have come across. The New York Times sends me a morning newsletter, as does NPR. I do not have television but do watch some items on YouTube, which probably warps my view of how much of what comes out is click-bait. I look at a variety of sources, but not Fox, OAN etc. I tried a few times, but they set my teeth on edge. I particularly like PBS News Hour, because it is less sensationalist than many of the other sources.

Tone

One reason I like PBS is that Judy Woodruff and Amna Nawaz have a calm, yet serious tone. When I watch other programs there is this cadence of urgency in the reporters, like everything is sportscasting; that grates on my nerves.

I feel like this “so-and-so has the ball and is running down the field-will he score?!?” tone is a problem. It introduces a sense of drama that inhibits taking in facts. Even the weather reports are full of stupid teasers and excessive drama. It numbs us to when something is in fact serious.

I dislike many of the reporters and anchors because they are into playing the role of “hard hitting journalist”, to me they come off as belligerent jerks. Wolf Blitzer, Dana Bash, Mehdi Hassan all fall into this category.

Content…or lack thereof

I do not know about other nations, but here in the USA there is too much coverage time for any amount of news. The 24/7 AD/HD everything is breaking (when everything is in fact broken!) type coverage is ridiculous. Even a bloody war isn’t enough to fill the time set aside for the infotainment that news coverage has become.

To make up for that the industry has two techniques that I find harmful.

First: “We turn now to our panel of experts”

The industry seems to love a “we turn now to our panel of experts” model to fill the time. I think this is a bit like “reality” TV. It’s way cheaper for them to pay a stipend to retired experts in a field to come on and opine off the cuff about a three minute news story than to send an investigative reporter out to do research.

My rule of thumb regarding these panels is to turn them off if the event happened in the past 24 hours. Here is why: these people are not in the know and they have not had time to either seriously study the situation or consider how best to communicate it. In those circumstances the best they can do is say they don’t know. They then fill time with the following: saying what additional information is needed to make any assessment, hypothesizing parameters then opining on what would happen if they were that way, sometimes they will then say what they think should happen.

January 6 potential tip:

For what it is worth, during the January 6 committee hearings I watch the PBS feed of the hearings, but mute the commentary. After I’ve had time to digest for myself I might listen to some other people’s takes. I really dislike being told what I think when I haven’t had a chance to think.

Second: Present opinion and salacious gossip as news

Another time filler that I find detrimental is how polls, opinions (the panels are a piece of this) and the trials and tribulations of celebrities is raised up to be “news”.

The most egregious of this is when they report what is trending on Facebook or Twitter as news, which is very rarely the case. This gives nutter-butters a broader platform and audience than they deserve. It sends the message that the opinion of someone who doesn’t know shit from Shinola is important.

The coverage of polls, many of which are flawed, is not really news and tends to warp our conception. We keep being told what we think is important until we think it is.

Also the coverage of of celebrities as if they matter is a problem. The recent Johnnie Depp trial got more hours of press time than the July 4th shooting at the Parade in Illinois. FYI: It wasn’t as important.

Why I think these are harmful:

They are training us to be incapable of discerning between important and trivial.

The reactionary-fascist media (Fox, OAN, Breitbart…) and their overlords are using this maliciously to numb us and gain power over us, this interview is an example of what I am talking about. I don’t know if CNN and MSNBC are part of the malice, or are just chasing clicks and minimizing costs by imitating them. But to some extent it doesn’t matter: they are participating in the training.

6 thoughts on “Simple answers: it sucks and pablum”

  1. Wow. What a great post, written in terms that even the simplest mind could follow. I am sincerely impressed. I came away knowing a bit more ‘in-depth’ information than I’ve found on any news source in years. You sure you don’t need a 2nd job? As a news commentor? I’ve been deliberately uninformed since 2016 due to my severe depression. I just can’t look any more. Thank you for chiming in this week!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Xingfumama,
    My gosh, as I went through what you wrote for your first Truthful Tuesday, I thought: you are so smart and right. And you must be so sweet (my actual first thought):
    I dislike many of the reporters and anchors because they are into playing the role of “hard hitting journalist”, to me they come off as belligerent jerks. Wolf Blitzer, Dana Bash, Mehdi Hassan all fall into this category.
    Content…or lack thereof
    I do not know about other nations, but here in the USA there is too much coverage time for any amount of news. The 24/7 AD/HD everything is breaking (when everything is in fact broken!) type coverage is ridiculous. Even a bloody war isn’t enough to fill the time set aside for the infotainment that news coverage has become.
    To make up for that the industry has two techniques that I find harmful.
    First: “We turn now to our panel of experts”
    The industry seems to love a “we turn now to our panel of experts” model to fill the time. I think this is a bit like “reality” TV. It’s way cheaper for them to pay a stipend to retired experts in a field to come on and opine off the cuff about a three minute news story than to send an investigative reporter out to do research
    .
    I find that “many … reporters and anchors” sometimes “come off as belligerent jerks.” Wolf Blitzer, Dana Bash, Mehdi Hassan don’t usually fall into that category for me. I find them to be usually going along with the status quo (and occasionally trying to be hard-hitting). But there has to be a better way. A good start is going with NPR if needing to keep daily life at least emotionally healthy when we can’t really get to the bottom of things (and hope to resolve them or hold people accountable in order to improve the future).
    There really is too much news — in terms of time — for the lack of detail that we get. I agree with you that “everything is broken!” And the importance of investigative reporters is an absolute.
    I was going to sort of say I’m different on the 24-hour thing, but then you said, “For what it is worth, during the January 6 committee hearings I watch the PBS feed of the hearings, but mute the commentary. After I’ve had time to digest for myself I might listen to some other people’s takes. I really dislike being told what I think when I haven’t had a chance to think.” Exactly! So I don’t disagree with you at all.
    I like having watched Donald Trump live in the moment when he spoke to a particular conservative group (whose na e I do t remember right now), as painful as it was during the campaign before he was elected in 2016. I also like having seen how ALL of the stations would look at his empty stage in waiting instead of listening to Bernie Sander already in progress or other people. I just want to know what is, in fact, happening. However, others just couldn’t hear what I had seen. They preferred believing the Republican forerunner wasn’t so bad.
    Meanwhile, the usual anchors have had to learn to call a liar a liar (or at least lies lies) instead of pretending everything is equal and relatively true. Now… I have not yet clicked on you example interview (per the fascists). Here I go, at present.

    Liked by 1 person

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