Friday, December 14, 2012

Blame Ted Turner

When did news programs turn into tabloid journalism?

I haven't done an in-depth scientific review but I suspect it began with the first bomb blasts of Desert Storm on January 16, 1991: the first Gulf War. Who can forget the compelling live reporting from the al-Rashid Hotel in Baghdad when CNN reporters Bernard Shaw, John Holliman, and Peter Arnett took cover and told us what they were seeing outside their window. That was the day we were hooked into the 24-hour news cycle. We saw war up front, close, and personal.

It wasn't the wonderful reporting that turned major events into one-story news systems. It was ratings. With most of the world hanging on every moment of coverage, CNN became the number one station for news, leaving the big three networks in the dust.

Fast forward to today's terrible shooting at a Connecticut school, where a gunman killed 20 elementary school children among six adults. As parents are escorting the survivors from the school grounds, reporters are interviewing the children as to what happened. Now, I completely understand the need to get to the most accurate report of what transpired at the scene. But really? You have to go there? Where in the brain of any reporter or editor (who sent the reporter and probably insisted they get that clip) says to interview young children immediately as they leave the bloody scene of where a gunman tried to kill them? And what parent with half a brain would allow the reporter to interview them?

That completely did me in ten minutes into watching the coverage. I was done. Nope, not watching anymore. Had enough. That's not news. That's exploitation. That is the same as the News of the World hacking the phone of a murdered girl and allowing the parents to think she was still alive.

So now, until the next tragedy or until the topic reverts back to more Fiscal Cliff discussions, expect 24/7 coverage of this shooting, with images run over and over of the same footage you saw in the first ten minutes, with the same pundits, the same interviews, speculation after speculation, more disturbing interviews with the children, and then when the editors get bored with that after about four days, they'll try and dig up dirt on the adults and maybe even the children that perished, as if to point the blame back to the victims.

The 24-hour news cycle and one-story news casts may have started with CNN (the brainchild of Ted Turner), but it has since spread to nearly every television station.

It's predictable coverage and it's been going on for so long, I forgot what real news coverage looks like. Oh wait. Yes I do. These same news stations used to try and discredit this one news outlet. Funny that. I challenge you to spend a day with it and it will help you through missing the days of Tom Brokaw and Walter Cronkite. Of course, I'm talking about Al Jazeera.

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