I’ve come to the conclusion, perhaps belatedly, that the world just doesn’t need 24-hour non-stop news coverage on multiple stations. Now, let me qualify that a bit. I think there is a place for the “Headline News” format, which basically provides a half hour news capsule in ongoing fashion for those who might not catch (or like) the local news. Of course, here in Louisville local news is on one station or another from maybe 5? until 9 each morning, from 11-1 at lunch, from 4-7:30 at dinner (with the exception of the national news at 6:30), and from 10-11:30 at night. I wonder how many hours of weather broadcasts air each day. Seriously, this is Louisville, KY! There’s not that much going on! But, just in case you need more, there’s always the radio updates throughout the day, and CNN, Fox, and all the various NBC’s.
One result of news saturation is a dumbing down of what constitutes “news.” Does the world really need, for example, incessant obsession over the Michael Jackson trial? Is that really the big news story it purports to be, or just filler? Yes, the issue is that all those news stations need to come up with stuff to talk about. So any story that might remotely look interesting gets hyped up dramatcially. Yet, the mere rapidity with which the news cycle turns over suggests that there’s a lot of “news” that isn’t news at all. Ironically, oftentimes truly significant events probably get missed in the rush for the next sensational story.
The other possible result of news saturation, from my vantage point, can be distortion. Lately it seems that there has been a rash of child abductions across the country. I’m not making light of child abductions – they’re terrible. But I would wager that there has not been a significant rise in such occurances in the last couple of years. What seems more likely is that the bosses at cable news channels realized that such abductions generated a lot of interest, and hence a lot of ratings. Bingo – next time a child (especially in the suburbs) turns up missing, CNN/Fox/NBC is all over it. The same thing probably happened with husbands murdering wives ala Scott Peterson.
So I typically don’t pay attention to cable news. Heck, I don’t tend to watch the local news much. I’m tired of the sensationalization. I have little interest in these shows where people from opposite ideological/political camps yell over the top of each other. I’m tired of agenda journalism and partisan spin from all sides on all stories (but that’s another post). Every once in a great while a truly monumental event happens and the world is glad to have 24-hour news. In general, however, I think it’s a bunch of hot air.