I have been busy caring for my nonagenarian father and trying to get an exceedingly good and moral man elected to Congress. I have been putting my writing on the back burner. But an issue has arisen in the never-ending litany of crises that I must respond to. Actually it’s very inappropriate bordering on cruel to place it in a category of that nature, but the media has elevated, or dragged it down, to the level of its constant demand for crisis after crisis. I am speaking about the most recent “mass murder” in Isla Vista Ca. near the UCSB campus. Not to diminish the fact that this was a heinous crime of the first magnitude and certainly newsworthy I must find fault with a preponderance of the media coverage of this awful event.
Sadly, it became the latest incident in the chain of crises, some real and some not so real, to be exploited by news outlets ad nauseam, until the next crisis rears its ugly head. One feature of this style of journalism is the not-stop 24/7 saturation coverage done by all of the networks. I believe this is primarily designed to keep their audience from switching channels. What it gives rise to is meaningless fill featuring the same video footage over and over, often having little to do with the tragedy, and anchors asking a never-ending stream of alleged experts the same obvious questions over and over again with slightly different wording. They send lots of field reporters and cameras crews to the scene, desperately hunting down “exclusives” to be used as “breaking news” that can hopefully ace out the other networks and capture even more viewers. In lieu of finding such special content the reporters are constantly filmed in front of the relevant school or apartment or convenience store or hospital, “let’s go to xyz at 123”, and asked a slightly different battery of the same questions over and over, hopefully getting slightly different answers each time. They then return to the anchor who offers some speculation on the motive or cause, meaning or effect of the crisis.
There is a legitimate reason for this repetition, as new viewers, behind the news curve, turn on their sets and deserve to have the facts, limited as they are, reviewed for them. After a modest amount of time virtually everyone in the world has been made aware of the situation and further catch up is no longer needed. But they insist on airing more panels of new experts discussing the very things that have been discussed and discussed and discussed before. Then we see the obligatory, mostly useless, interviews with shell-shocked witnesses and relatives and my particular favorite, the filling of time waiting for the news conference scheduled for 7PM EST that everybody knows will not take place until 8:30.
Another disturbing aspect of this kind of broadcasting is the misleading and downright false information passed on by news staff reporting rumors, without substantiation, in a vain effort to outdo the other networks. These falsehoods can lead to all sorts of bad information reaching the public that at best is confusing and at worst cruel.
This irresponsibility can go on for days, depending on the perceived severity of the crisis. The networks go eye to eye with each other until somebody blinks and actually reports some of the other news that has unceremoniously piled up in the queue, a lot of which is pretty important, or the crisis of the moment is dramatically replaced by another, more horrible or timely crisis.
I know this all sounds terribly rude, unemotional, and mean-spirited. And it is. For that I sincerely apologize. But this sort of thing is omnipresent in today’s world of infotainment and I believe it does a huge disservice to the public, who deserve much more from the news outlets they depend on.
I have digressed into a topic that represents a severe irritant to me. I should have started with my main point but I got really distracted. Therefore I’m publishing this as a separate post and will start over in my next post.