As I was listening to WTOP news [a DC news/talk radio station] in my car today, a funny thing happened.
In pretext, the TV "meltdown" award of this week goes to this emphatic Congressman, Partick Kennedy (D) from Rhode Island, for citing that the media/press is paying more attention to controversy than the highly important laws being passed through Congress and the billions of dollars being spent on wars. Here's a CNN video of his words:
Eric Massa, as you may already know, resigned from his post as a Congressman this week over a cloud of scandal, most notably so far cited for "Tickling a staffer". As you'd know if you do pay attention to the news, the story was front and center for most of the week on pretty much every news channel, including WTOP.
I heard a commentator [name withheld] on WTOP today stating that Congressman Patrick Kennedy was "unreasonable" in saying that the media should focus on Congress because [to paraphrase] "The media is a money driven industry" and that "The media only cares about stories that make them money". This was quite disturbing to me if the stance the media, that I frequently listen to, applies precedence to stories that generate ad revenue and money for them. If that's the case, how are they [the news media] ever to be trusted by common people like you and me?
Millions of events happen every day, some merit local attention, some merit national attention, I have been finding out more and more that the news I hear about has less and less to do with issues that affect the masses and more about issues that affect a small groups of people, and it leads me to wonder if the stories I hear on the news will begin to all move that way.
The value of the news is [of course] that we can use it to keep informed about events that happen which matter to us the most. We sit through commercial after commercial to get to weather reports, or to the hot item that affects where we work or live. Hearing about national matters of contention such as Health, Abortion, Immigration, etc all prove valid and vital to us at various times in our lives, so they'll often rank well for news reports, these issues affect us and the people we know.
But what if the same lobbyists and companies that advertise on these radio stations use their dollars as ballots for news policy? Might it now be possible that "all of the crime reports" I hear in the months coming up to an election are to create a false sense of a city overrun with crime so that I'll pick a candidate who gives off a good "law enforcer" vibe? Might the next earthquake story I hear about be carefully chosen and tailored in order to soften my wallet to help a commercial advertiser for the channel to profit from rebuilding infrastructure that will support economic development to subsidize their company in trying to expand in that region? I am just a pawn in a chess game it seems, and I can no longer trust the news... *sob*
Of course, I know, you'll say "We've known this for a long time now", I know that too, but when news channels grow to behemoth status, we have to watch them for harmful rhetoric, and we have to hold them accountable for their actions and mistakes, no matter how trustworthy they may seem. Many news channels portray an image , along with supporting commercials that state their trustworthiness, it can all look completely innocent, until carefully planned "opinion" segments come into view...
Its easy for a station to deny responsibility for the statements of their commentators, though these are often the same people on their payrolls! What better form of "endorsement" can you give to someone like Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity than a steady paycheck?! It happens all the time, but what should then be asked is whether or not the news station is balancing out those polarized commentaries with meaningful opposing views? The answer more and more these days is probably "No".
In America, we seem to have sacrificed our interest in solid and professional public debate. We've "dumbed" most things broadcast down to simple terms. Companies focus on appealing to the "basic drives behind the average/base human desires" rather than "educating people to make informed decisions". Group consensus leads so many vital decisions [instead of plain old good judgment] these days its scary. Consensus builds buildings in our societies rather and "faster than" trusted people that have a proven track record for historical decision making. The problem with an all consensus-led current state is that if a failure occurs, there is no one accountable for said failure because the group [that consensus is comprised of] "dissolves" and disbands quickly in crisis... You know how it is with twins, neither or all take the blame 9 times out of ten because its impossible to determine who is responsible most of the time when things go bad.
Allowing consensus to rule opens a "floodgate for failure" that has no one accountable for failure at the helm. The same could be said for the news media, by putting the weight and responsibility of what is said and quality of reports into "public specified demand" driven by profitability, we lead our society to a slippery slope of distraction from the issues and news that will concern us most, and there will be no sense of responsibility for news quality and priority because the same failures can't be tagged to a single editor, it will all be blamed on "public demand".
Global warming has been a huge issue lately, cited by some as "a massive hoax" due to reports of hidden documentation that laid proof to the ideal that numbers were faked in initial projections about potential and current damage to the environment. How are we to know if this is true or not now? I don't have the time or knowledge to investigate myself, and I bet most of you don't have the time either. This again is yet another example of how financially motivated news can hurt all of us. In this case, the reports could be used to influence us that the environment is truly "OK" and not facing a threat, blinding us to companies that dump tons of toxic chemicals into our air and water; and on the other hand, the news media could lead us to believe that the environment is severely damaged, and that we should pour money into Toyota and Al Gore's pocket so that he can make another movie and so that people can buy more Toyota Priuses [with working accelerator pedals mind you].
How can we tell if a news report on a business doing well is based on truth rather than being a rouse to drive stocks just before a major sellout? [See Kramer vs. Stewart]:
I know the value of troops sacrificing their lives to defend our country even though I have not served, I'd never take that sacrifice lightly. We are also spending billions of dollars on this war, while the news media also reports on relatively insignificant budget cuts here at home. If the news media doesn't feel accountability to us for presenting the truth and stories that really impact our lives, maybe we should make it clear to them that THEY SHOULD, by turning them off. As long as the Internet is free and open, there are many other sources for news, lets seek out those that, despite needing to raise money to operate, live to a higher standard by keeping their fund raising out of their news topic focus. "Keeping it real" is not something we only do on Sundays, its an EVERY DAY affair.
If the news media takes priorities based on financial backing, and that's preventing all of us from hearing about vital developments in the war currently going on in Afghanistan, I say the system needs an overhaul, because I'd rather hear about our troops and where government spending really goes than about a Congressman "tickling their staffers" any day.
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