Quite honestly, I blame Ted Turner.
That may not be entirely fair but for at least an entire generation now – those entering their twenties and thirties – it would seem that nothing is fair in the news business.
Before the arrival of CNN, and every single 24-hour news team or aggregator that followed, news organizations ostensibly had not only the time but also the inclination (one could say, the duty) to examine many facets of a story, if not all of them, before putting it on the air or above the fold and disseminating it to the masses. Getting a story organized, getting it verified; getting it right above all else were more important that vilifying someone, supporting someone or building the reputation of a news organization. [Read All the President’s Men for a primer on reporting and verifying details prior to publication.] It feels like forty or fifty years ago, very few stories hit the airwaves every night or our kitchen tables every morning that had to then be retracted, restated or revised not 24 hours later with facts that had come to light. That may not be entirely true – but it feels true, doesn’t it?
The best course for all of us could be to wait for day four or five – or ten or eleven – for any news story before we start to listen and draw some conclusions. By that time, those who report the story will have gotten the facts straight, or nearly so, and we can read something resembling the truth via passionless reporting. Alternatively, a specious story will have disappeared in a few days and we won’t have wasted energy thinking about it.
For those stories in between – where the facts come to light day by day, even hour by hour – a little restraint and a lot less judgment on the part of the journalists telling the story would not go unappreciated by many of us who don’t want editorials accompanying our news.
The idea of constant news and a constant steam of information for those who want to lap it up is good. The products that resulted from that good idea are largely awful. This good idea has devolved into a bloodbath of exaggeration, lies, miscommunication, deceit, and “us against them” on all sides of the aisle, delivered fairly regularly with no small amount of cleavage in view to sell it to the masses as well.
And I’ll bet no one covers that story.
© 2010 Renee A. James Renee James writes social commentary and keeps track of the things that mystify her on her blog: It’s not me, it’s you, found at reneeaj.blogspot.com. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.