Alas, while my heart might have been in the right place, being in the "real world," I have quickly learned that watching the news has left me more devoid for knowing the state of the world we live in. At my work now, I get to watch the news all the time. I mean, ALL the time. Literally 8 hours out of every day the news is plastered in front of me. Granted, none of us at work can hear it, so all we see are the headlines. Yet it is clear just by the choice of topics I have seen that the news is not so concerned with informing its viewers as it is keeping their eyes glued to the TV.
What I mean by that last statement is that the news has become one dimensional. While it still works on attracting viewers, which is something the news has always had to do, this is all news networks focus on now. The news totally neglects its other responsibility, and that is to help its audience understand what is happening, and possible even why its happening. This is the current format of the news:
Story A: Dude eats face, Zombie Apocalypse!
Story B: NSA spying on us, Secret Police?!?!
Aaaaaand that will be it. It will create a lot of hype and hysteria over both incidents, then the media will totally drop both, move on to something else, and never even bother to explain the bigger picture behind both stories. Instead the audience is left bombarded with horror story after horror story, and a feeling of helplessness over what can be done. The news just keep showing how terrible everything is, without bothering to offer us food for thought over why such things are happening. And if it does offer explanations, they are usually conveniently one dimensional to blame Obama or Bush, Democrat or Republican. Therefore helping to create a culture where we demonize each other, where whoever does not agree with you is the sworn enemy that must be stopped at all cost.
This is the format that I soooo desperately wish the news would follow:
Story A: Instead of highlighting the fact that a guy ate someones face, use that fact to draw people in but then highlight the larger problems of drug use and homelessness. Investigate the bigger issues that lead to anecdotal extremes such as this story.
Story B: Talk about the spying of course, but look at it within the larger context of national security, individual rights, and investigate the expansion of powers of the nsa since its creation.
I know a lot of my disgust may come from being a history major. As a history major I always want to know the story behind the story before I come to a conclusion. Outrage is useless if it cannot be properly channeled at what actually caused the violation, which is usually not a quick fix, but more often than not stems from a long term development that does have an easy fix.
However I think a lot of my disgust comes mostly from living in a free society, that seems to be paradoxically more and more ignorant of the world around us while having more and more access to info about the world than ever before. The media, and in particular television news networks have not done anything to help.
Yet I don't really know if its all their fault. They may very well simply not have the luxury to spend time investigating these issues anymore. Afterall, Americans have more options for entertainment than they did 30 years ago, and now if we are even slightly bored we can change the channel to 1000 different options, or surf the web, which the options there are near limitless. News networks may have to use a sensationalist format simply to maintain the viewers they have.
Whether or not its the fault of the news networks or of a desensitized society with no attention span, its clear to me that one can watch the news and have no better grasp of world than if you didn't watch it. I have started turning to other sources to inform myself, and I would encourage you to do so as well. The news networks may be a good place to go to as a starting point, however in my experience further investigation is usually needed to truly understand what you see on it. However don't be discouraged by the ineptitude of the networks. There are plenty of good sources if you want the news on a deeper level. The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and the magazine, "The Economist," are great sources.
Well there is my rant on the news. Now go and read some real news.