No (TV) News Is Good News

I’ve had it.  I just can’t watch television news any more. 

I tune in each morning to get the headlines and the weather.  Instead, I get  newspeople who are more consumed with their own fake laughter, dumb banter, less-than-witty repartee, and projecting phony moral outrage than they are in giving me the headlines.  It’s not about news, it’s about events and personalities.  So instead of getting information I can use, I end up shouting at the screen and spilling my coffee.

Like Cardinal Ximinez, I stupidly keep giving the news channels three last chances, hoping I’ll tune in tomorrow and things will be better.  They never are.  It’s too much about ratings and winning time  slots than providing the news; consequently, it’s all about the outrage, not the coverage. And don’t try to talk me down, as I am no longer prepared to be rational about my annoyance.  I’m to the point where everything bugs me.

First up, there’s the new spin on the old “if it bleeds it leads” policy, focusing on some completely random incident and how it might just possibly kill you and everyone you love.  My favorite:  “Coming up, the latest on spontaneous combustion of wood chips at a local playground, and what you can do to keep your family safe.”  This report is immediately followed by incredulous stares and oh-so-objective handwringing from the anchorpeople that the government is doing nothing to regulate the use of wood chips on playgrounds.  And I wish I was making that up.

Next, it’s a panel of “experts” called in to debate the economy, or foreign policy, or health care, with a panel composed wholly of . . .  journalists and other newspeople.  I have nothing against journalists, but just because you’re a reporter who’s beat includes the local police station doesn’t mean you’re an expert on public safety.  I don’t mind having a round-robin discussion in which everyone gives their opinion on the chosen topic, but these talking head sessions are too often presented as providing viewers with the facts — which, to make the circle complete, then get reported by other media outlets as such.

And, of course, there’s the the endless rounds of dumb banter as reporters transition between stories, injecting unfunny commentary in the name of witty repartee, and then laughing waaay too hard at anything anyone says.  Worse, though, is the editorializing that is often almost casually dropped in following a story, as the anchors discuss the issue for just a moment among themselves (why they do this, I have no idea). 

In this department, the last straw for me was a moment on the increasingly vapid Morning Joe on MSNBC (yes, Joe, we know you were a Congressman, and cast LOTS of tough votes, and ran successfully for reelection, and defied your own president and yadda yadda.  And we know so because you tell us at 26 minutes past every hour, every day). 

Immediately following a piece on waterboarding, Scarborough engaged Meet the Press moderator David Gregory in a brief discussion on the letter of the law.  Here’s Scarborough’s outro on the piece:

…history has shown over the past seven years that actually it [waterboarding] is very, very effective. Let’s tell the truth. Let’s talk about what information we got with waterboarding and then we can debate it  . . . It’s effective but is it worth it . . . Maybe it would have been better for a couple of other cities to burn . . . um . . . instead of waterboarding and we can have that debate.  If you’d like Washington DC and Los Angeles to be obliterated by a nuclear blast I certainly respect your opinion and I think we should just talk about it.

(Video of this conversation is here.  Joe’s rant starts at about 3:10.)

Forget the politics of the issue; that was just a plain dumb and irresponsible thing to say. And it’s dumb because Scarborough was just riffing, channeling Michael Scott from The Office and not really thinking about what was coming out his mouth even as he was saying it. 

That sort of casual badinage might be the way things work now, but it’s not working for me any more, any where. 

I’m done.

5 responses to “No (TV) News Is Good News

  1. The only American news channel I get (because of where I live) is CNN. I am completely fed up with the boy-girl anchor tag teams that complete each other’s sentences. “And now we take you to Chicago,” says the boy, “where teachers are once again on strike,” finishes the girl.

    I am also insulted by the set-up questions that follow EVERY report from the field. “Thank you for that report, Mike. I was just wondering, how well armed are the pirates?” “Funny you should ask! I just happen to have a prepared video addressing that very subject!”


  2. Here here! Save the editorializing for, well, the editorials. Most importantly, I’m tired of being told to be afraid of absolutely everything – wood chips included.


  3. Just before the election my satellite provoider decided to charge extra for CNN and Court/”True” TV- at first I was pissed -but no way was I gonna pay extra – then I realized I did not even miss either network (except lusting after Anderson Cooper).

    As soon as the election was over, I cut way back on MSNBC (which I still had)- the shows that were politically sympatico to me seemed loud and boorish.

    I don’t advocate anybody being under-or un-informed, but less exposure to what passes for TV “news” these days is a good idea – more time for reading and writing, and less tv in general.


  4. And it’s all more fuel for the fire to save print newspapers!


  5. Rob & JD:

    That’s actually where I was going next, but I was out of steam — the even larger need to support print. I find it . . . terrifying, I think is the right word, that the Seattle area, for example, has no major newspapers. Here in the DC area, even, the Post is a shadow of its former self. It’s scary.

    It’s partly print’s fault — “evolve or die” didn’t work in their favor — but I’ll admit to being one of those people who initially yawned when the NY Times wanted to experiment with paid online content. “I’ll just read all the free stuff,” I said. And I continue to be glad everything is available online for free.

    But I’m changing. If the Post, or the Times, or whoever, wants to start making us pay for access to some content, I’m willing on principle to support it — at least for a while — if it means we get to keep their print clone around for a while longer.

    I want newspapers around. Badly.


    I’ll admit to preferring the international version of CNN over the U.S. original — I find it a little less jarring, though I WAS rather surprised by some of the little details about American politics they get wrong (they’ll say that “six states” support something, if six U.S. Senators vote yes for something). A small, but significant, difference. Interesting.

    The one bit of TV coverage I DO like is BBC — probably because they’re so properly and blandly British, that it NEVER becomes about personalities. I just. Get. The. News.