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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

American Newscasters Blindly Floundering


In mid-2012, just 21% of adults in the U.S. told Gallop they had a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in TV news. In 1993, the percentage had been at forty-six. Ideological differences do not seem to matter (ranging only between 19-22%). Interestingly, the 18- to 29-year-old group had the most confidence. In terms of education, the more educated one was, the less likely one was to have a great deal of confidence. Newspapers did not fare much better, coming in at 25 percent. 

 By chance, on the very day I read about the Gallop poll, I came to the conclusion that the Huffington Post must be utterly addicted to the U.S. Presidential campaign—then already at least a year old and with just less than half a year left. Nearly every headline seemed to be about something that Mit Romney had said (or not said). Every little thing was blown up into a major crisis—to the point that I had come to skip the headlines completely. It occurred to me that the Huffington Post had lost credibility, at least to me, because of its lack of perspective. The dramatics alone reaffirmed my decision to get my news from Europe, even concerning what is going on in the United States! Tellingly, very little indeed was being reported concerning the "important" presidential campaigns (Gott sei dank)

Accordingly, I had given up watching any American news channels or shows in April 2012. I had come to realize that all too often opinion was being sold as news. All too often, journalists were interviewing other journalists as experts (other than on journalism). Such interviews I would call journalistic masturbation—fit only for other journalists to watch. Just a week before the Gallop poll came out, someone casually remarked to me that if Americans would just watch the news on a European station, they would quickly realize how far off the reservation the American newscasts and news networks had wandered in terms of reporting the news.

In addition to the journalists interviewing other journalists and the “talking heads” commentators dominating the “news,” the obsessiveness on one particular story within any given 24 hours news-cycle (and limiting “international news” to two or three countries in the world where the U.S. has a particular interest) can easily give the viewer the sense that the world is much smaller than it actually is. It is a fallacy to suppose that the narrowness of coverage means it is more in depth rather than merely repetitive. Furthermore, one should not assume that the narrowness is for want of enough time in a given broadcast; typically after ten minutes in the evening newscasts of the major non-news networks (i.e, ABC, NBC, and CBS), a magazine format takes over, with "human interest" stories replacing news reports.

In short, television news is broken in the United States, and the journalists are blind to it even as they portray themselves (ironically) as self-appointed experts (i.e., talking heads) on policy. Because the correction needed is not merely by degree, it is doubtful that the situation could be rectified without a new infusion of people in the business. In the meantime, I recommend Deutsche Welle (German and English versions—webpages and television channels) and TV5 Monde (en francais), as well as the BBC.  Hopefully these European newscasts won’t follow their American cousins.


Source:

Gallup Politics, “Americans’ Confidence in Television News Drops to New Low,” July 10, 2012. http://www.gallup.com/poll/155585/Americans-Confidence-Television-News-Drops-New-Low.aspx