Next on Cable News, Nothing Important


I am a news junkie. When I used to commute in a car I would listen to NPR to pass the time. In fact, the reporting on Big Tobacco’s cover-up of health studies related to cigarettes is what led me to quit smoking; all the information I got from the news convinced me that supporting an industry whose practices I found abhorrent was wrong. So, you can see that news and information have a big effect on how I think.

Now I watch a lot of cable news during the day at work on days that I don’t need to watch CSPAN to monitor the comings and going of Congress. My station of choice is MSNBC because years ago I found that everything CNN did made me nervous, especially Wolf Blitzer. He makes everything sound like that deep-voiced movie preview announcer who starts everything with “In a world…”. I always expect Will Smith to have to storm onto his set and save the planet.

So, MSNBC it is because, well, I’m not about to watch FoxNews. I mean…yeah. We don’t even need to go into that. I’m also a big fan of Huffiington Post for news online because I do like my liberal bias right out front where I can bask in it (I imagine that’s why conservatives like Fox, actually – it’s nice to feel a sense of belonging, isn’t it?). That’s also why I like MSNBC too, actually. Liberals everywhere. Except for, like, Dylan Ratigan who seems to be operating under a political ideology best described as “High-Pitched Snit”. He’s angry about something, possibly the entire status quo, but he has nothing in the way of solutions to offer, from what I can tell. Also, he refers to Wall Street as “banksters” which I guess is supposed to be a play on “bankers” and “gangsters” but always makes me think of Oreo Cakesters.

The problem I’m facing with MSNBC and also with Huffington Post is that these two exemplars of liberally slanted news reporting is that they don’t report news, and they don’t talk about liberal stuff: all they do is talk about the latest outrage emerging from the mouths of the likes of Sarah Palin, John Boehner, and Glenn Beck. And I’ve gotta say that, of the three of them, I’m most interested in John Boehner because, as incoming Speaker of the House, he at least matters.  Anytime Keith Olbermann or Arinanna Huffington is frothing at the mouth over Palin or Beck, we’re deep into the Pundit Wars and you can be damn sure that you’re wasting your time watching or reading because nothing of value is being conveyed.

Honestly, what need do I have to know every asinine thing Rand Paul or Michelle Bachmann says on conservative talk radio shows? Does it affect national security? Health and welfare? The macro-economy? I don’t think so. All that speculation about whether or not Sharron Angle intends to run for office in 2012? Doesn’t make a lick of difference to anyone. And don’t get me started on all the idiotic coverage of Bristol Palin on Dancing With The Stars. I almost had to give up on HuffPo entirely the day I saw a story about that on the politics page. Until the day that we determine who occupies the Oval Office with a dance off, DWTS is not politics.

It’s kind of disheartening to realize that the news is driven by a gossip-aesthetic that has anchors merely telling us what people we’re already inclined to dislike have said with the intent of stirring up our outrage, yet again. I saw a Fox News headline that calls Obama’s new children’s book anti-American because it talks about Sitting Bull. That runs as a nice counterpoint to the HuffPo headlines about Sarah Palin lashing out at Levi Johnston in her book (which is not for children). Gossip, gossip, everywhere but not a single fact that matters.

Yeah. Great. Now can someone give me details on whats happening with the defense authorization bill in Congress that could lead to a repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell? How about the bombs Kim Jong Il seems to lobbing around? I want to know what’s going on with that because he scares the shit out of me. He’s way worse than Sitting Bull who is, you know, dead. And for a moment can we all agree to stop talking about Kate and Wills and instead get some substantive coverage of the economic state of Britain and the rest of the European Union and maybe hear about some of their effective economic stimulus programs so we can learn from our friends and allies? Hell, I’d be happy just to hear about how some actual US government programs are functioning and get some analysis of what works and what doesn’t so we can move forward instead of standing still and yelling.

I know that outrage sells. Gossip sells. Just ask Ann Coulter or Meghan McCain. Or Keith Olbermann or Stephen Colbert, for that matter. But you know what would stop it? If we stopped buying it. It probably means we all need to give up our cable news quick-fix and actually read long-form articles in newspapers and magazines but maybe if we do, cable news will catch on and start giving us something real instead of Political Gossip Girl. Because information matters and I want good information.

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5 comments for “Next on Cable News, Nothing Important

  1. amy
    November 24, 2010 at 11:03 am

    you said it..we have to stop buying into the political rantings…but Stephen Colbert, John Stewart are funny about politics.

  2. November 24, 2010 at 4:53 pm

    I agree – you never really get any information from the news.

  3. November 24, 2010 at 7:07 pm

    My friend, you are preaching to the choir. I’m old enough to remember when we had real news with Cronkite, Huntley/Brinkley and the like. There are those doing some wonderful indepth pieces. Christiane Amanpour, for example. For the most part, I get my news on the internet. HuffPo at least shows me the highlights of what I want to check out deeper. Daily Kos is probably the most thorough in reporting, oddly enough. I check in there several times a day. They always have good links to support their coverage.

    I wrote a post on “Junk Food TV” a few months back that talks about how the 24/7 ratings-driven media combined with its consolidation has led to the very problems you’re describing.

    It’s very hard to be informed in today’s media world. You really have to work at it, which is probably why most people are not.

  4. Kim
    November 24, 2010 at 8:08 pm

    Let’s not forget when Michelle Obama’s choice to go sleeveless evokes social and political outrage. THAT’s news.

  5. November 26, 2010 at 3:23 pm

    Thank you.

    That is why I don’t watch any t.v. news, even though I LOVE news. Also why I like reading the paper [NYT, of course, like all good liberal media junkies] because then I can pick & choose what I need to know about.

    Except lately it’s all so bad, that I don’t want to know any of it.

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