Thursday, January 10, 2013

Homogeny - Best Reserved for Milk Not News

Last night I did something I rarely do.  I watched network television.  Even if I watch television shows, I never watch the news.  It simply depresses me. But last night I was working on a post for my other blog and my husband had the news on.  I was powerless to look away.
I watched the 11 PM broadcast of the local news and then Jimmy Kimmel Live.

On Jimmy Kimmel he did a man-on-the-street routine asking three questions:
1) Do you think Congress is doing a good job? (Unanimously,they said no.)
2) Can you name your Congressional Representatives? (All but one man could not..)
3) Can you name two people from "Jersey Shore"? (All but one man could. Interestingly, it was the man who knew his representatives who could not.)

Now, of course, I realize this was edited for maximum laugh-power. But when I considered what I had just watched on the news, I was struck with a stark realization.  Not only have we enshrined our celebrities, we have homogenized our news coverage.  Every outlet is telling you the about same things.  Of course, there are shades, FoxNews is not saying the same thing as CNN, but they are reporting about the same things.  I am much more concerned about local coverage.

For example: In the local news last night, there was coverage of Vice President Joe Biden's Gun Control Task Force.  The sound bite for this was from a national outlet and lasted less than 30 seconds.  Where was our local congressional feedback?  Where do our Senators and Representatives stand on these issues?  No one knows, because no one asked.

Instead, they aired a follow-up story about a young woman who died in a tragic fall in Cleveland.  Would that have been enough for you to know?  Of course.  Did we also need to know that she was an exotic dancer doing a lap dance on a second floor mezzanine?  No, we did not need to know that.  Furthermore, this was a very local news item.  Local to Cleveland.  We live in Columbus. Why were we told about the gratuitous smut? Because the salacious bits get ratings. That poor family.

Congressmen are boring.  Exotic dancers are interesting.
Politics is dull.  Celebrities are exciting.
Therefore we know more about our celebrities than our elected leaders.  True? Yes.

But the fun doesn't stop there.

A couple of years ago, now, all of the major newspapers in Ohio joined forces to cover the news statewide in an effort to eliminate redundant reporting and spare labor costs, much on the model of AP or UPI.  While on the surface, this looks like a good idea, I believe this is a huge mistake.

News is like the classic parable of the three blind men and the elephant.  Each sees the object in a different way.  To reduce the number of people viewing that event is to control the amount of information that gets out.  I don't know about you, but I would prefer to get as much information as I can.  When I am reading virtually the same story in every paper I pick up I am not getting all the viewpoints.  And it's gets uglier.

Here in Central Ohio, The Dispatch Printing Company (Publishers of The Columbus Dispatch, Columbus Monthly, All of the Neighborhood Newspapers, Columbus Alive and many more in the Central Ohio Area) have bought out their only competitors and closed them down. Twice.

So, in the capital city of one of the most important swing states in the country, we get one point of view. No one wants to talk to or about the boring Congressmen.  No one wants to talk about the homogenization of our news media (both written and broadcast).  No one wants to talk about the ClearChannel/I<3radio area="area" central="central" either.="either." every="every" in="in" of="of" ohio="ohio" p="p" station="station" takeover="takeover" the="the" virtually="virtually">
This distresses me. No wonder no one knows what's going on.  People may not be paying attention, but the news media is not helping the problem by putting in red herrings to pull us away from what's important and making business decisions that reduce effective coverage of the stories that matter.  Really. Matter.

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