Saturday, November 21, 2015 10:28 AM
Here we are—all together for the holidays. America, Syria, France, Iraq, Iran, Russia, Israel, Jordan, Mali, Greece, Ukraine, UK, Italy, Turkey, Afghanistan, Mexico, China, Myanmar—well, ‘countries recently in the news’ is a list too long for me to type here. And in some senses, it doesn’t matter—the places unmentioned in the news are experiencing their own difficulties—there’s just no sensational story there—or it’s too hot to report from—but you can find troubles everywhere. Trouble for the holidays—just what everybody put on their Christmas lists!
I’m tempted to stop watching the news on TV—it’s not that I don’t care—I care a lot—it’s just that I don’t approve of the way they’re telling the story. The media leaves out too much of importance and focuses too much (and for too long) on the unimportant. It’s a stupid way to tell a story—and when the story is of civilization’s progress through time, I judge it worthy of some care in the telling.
I see journalists—and whole news networks—filtering their output through self-interest and sensationalism. When the whole point of journalism is to give us ‘just the facts’, these reporters insult our intelligence and abuse our trust by reporting on a bias. News stories often focus on how the people ‘felt’—“What did it feel like to be there?”—“What are your feelings now that’s it’s over?”—that sort of thing—it’s called ‘human interest’. Human interest stories used to be what the newspapers used for filler on a slow news day, when they had no actual facts to report. But now, we’re lucky if any facts get through at all.
Do I care about how people feel? Yes, I do. In a democracy, the ‘feelings’ of the majority determine who is elected and what laws are passed (theoretically). Plus, we all want to know where we stand in relation to the views of the majority. Everyone’s feelings about everything, however, should oughta be based on what we know—and we rely on the news to inform us, not to consolidate our ‘feelings’ about our ignorance.
We have specialty news outlets that lean left or right—catering to our existing emotional biases—or confine themselves to business (the rich people channel, I call it) or confine themselves to sports (adults getting paid to play games). Here are the specialties by which I think the news should be diversified. There should be a Statistics news channel that shows graphs of data, changes over time, projections of future trends, and comparisons of one set of indices against another. There should be a Global news channel that gives the status of every country in the world, whether it’s currently a hot news spot or not—who’s in charge of each country, how their economy is doing, what their human rights status is, and what their least-represented citizens are having to endure. It should also give us a sense of which countries are cooperating with each other, which countries are opposed to each other, and whether that conflict is one of arms, jihad, genocide, economic pressure, or environmental threat.
And there should be a Political news channel—but not for a bunch of speeches and photo-ops—it should report on new legislation being passed on the federal level, the state level, and locally. The overall effect of the legislation should be examined, of good or bad potential—and it should report on which lobby pushed for the legislation and what the motives behind it are—and there should be some notice taken of the effects of any new legislation on the people who had no desire for it, but had it imposed on them. They could even have a ‘fun’ segment that listed all the lies told that day by politicians of either party—and maybe even a ‘heroes’ segment once a week that touts a politician who speaks an unpopular truth (though that may have to be just once a month, or even once a year).
I wouldn’t mind a Disenfranchised news channel, reporting on how things look from the bottom of the heap—the ad revenue for such a channel would be abysmal, but the viewership would be enormous. Science-based news would be good too—but not to report on new gadgets and spacecraft launches—it should report on the connections between scientist and funding, corporations and universities connecting, government and research being influenced by lobbyists—and all that sort of thing. You could throw in some stuff about education too—new educational methods and their implementation, or the barriers against education raised by fundamentalists, prudes, and special interests.
I could go on about all the important content that is presently ignored by the ‘news’, but you get my drift. People have been talking about the monopolization of media by the wealthy; about the surrender of journalism to capitalism, for decades—but now it’s really coming home to roost. Democracy can’t function without free speech and an informed constituency—and while free speech abides, we are no longer being properly informed. The popularity of presidential candidates with no experience in governing and no knowledge of American history gives some small indication of that.