“The media,” as it’s referred to, is not a monolith. We don’t just have one channel, one paper or one site with one nefarious dude pulling levers. “The media” consists of books, newspapers, magazines, television, billboards, radio, blogs, vlogs, ebooks, webcasts, podcasts and movies etc. The media is a vast and (kind of) diverse way of communicating information.
Let’s talk news. And where the majority of Americans – as in over 50 percent (by most estimates) – still get their news – from their local nightly news show. Any discussion about how unaware Americans are when it comes to news needs to have its finger pointed at the proper culprit: Your local broadcast.
Yes, everyone hates Congress but loves their Congressman. Everyone thinks “the media” is biased, wrong and awful – but tunes in to their local anchor with admiration and trust. A pox on them all, except our guy…
Last week a PublicMind FDU poll went viral with the line, “Fox News [viewers] are five-points more likely than those who watch no news at all, to incorrectly say it’s the U.S. that is bailing out European countries.” The under-reported story (buried lede as we call it in “the media”) was of those polled 67 percent said they watched their local news. And that could explain why 36 percent said they didn’t know who was bailing out Europe and only 30 percent gave the correct answer (Germany).
Did you know that Iceland is having a revolution as a direct result of the economic meltdown centered in the U.S. housing market? How about Syria being sanctioned by the Arab League? Vladamir Putin has gotten himself back on the ballot in Russia?
And it’s not just the “reading off BBC headlines” news the local news misses – it’s the actual local news: Investigative news in the public interest. News about the economy, politics and local issues.
Your local news opts to put a camera in the face of a crime victim and be a staple of “fear porn” rather than ever tackle difficult segments holding the school board/city council/mayor/state legislature/governor accountable for anything.
Why can I assume without sitting down and watching a week of your local newscast that they’re more than likely gleefully doing a recap of what happened on Dancing With the Stars/American Idol/Survivor tonight? Because your local broadcast news is more than likely ratings driven. And because of the last couple of decades of ratings driven local news our Edward R. Murrows have all become Harvey Levins.
Why are Americans not even rising to the level of ill informed and topping out at totally clueless? Because as Homo sapiens, we are effectively distracted by shiny objects and Kardashians. Plus our monkey brains got a chance to evolve this long by being on hyper-alert for danger, so we eat up any story telling us about “the hidden dangers lurking in our homes!” So of course we tune-in as told and in that way reward our local yokels for their reportage. And local yokels as Homo sapiens … also like rewards. It’s a vicious circle.
But, now as there are Americans Occupying public spaces demanding economic justice and other Americans being baffled as to why that is: it’s become clear some of the problem is our local news broadcasts.
It is completely unacceptable for a 30-minute telecast with 10 minutes of commercials and two minutes of teasers to have any minutes for a Bieber. Nothing ever involving a Real Housewife is really news. Curb the fear porn. Plus it’s absolutely journalistic malfeasance to give airtime to any alleged psychic … even when they’re an octopus.
We have to change this. We have to demand that our local news isn’t just meteorologists in skimpy (think: shiny) cocktail dresses. We have to demand real news – the less sexy kind – the kind where the white-collar criminals break into our homes with the swipe of a pen. We have to ban celebrity gossip from the 18-minutes of need-to-know information we consume each night.
And the only way to change it is from the consumer up.
Tell your local station if you want to find out about Brangelina you’ll go anywhere other than your local news broadcast. Tell them you want to know about authentic issues involving our complex global community – or just NOT “a report” what’s airing on television next week. Either way will be an improvement.
Tina Dupuy is an award-winning writer and the managing editor of Crooks and Liars. Tina can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Follow Tina on Twitter: @TinaDupuy