A recent piece in Rolling Stone makes some great points about how what passes for TV news these days is not serving it’s audience. The writer claims Americans are Too Dumb for TV News, and that is the fault of the news producers themselves.
We in the media have spent decades turning the news into a consumer business that’s basically indistinguishable from selling cheeseburgers or video games. You want bigger margins, you just cram the product full of more fat and sugar and violence and wait for your obese, over-stimulated customer to come waddling forth.
The old Edward R. Murrow, eat-your-broccoli version of the news was banished long ago. Once such whiny purists were driven from editorial posts and the ad people over the last four or five decades got invited in, things changed. Then it was nothing but murders, bombs, and panda births, delivered to thickening couch potatoes in ever briefer blasts of forty, thirty, twenty seconds.
When you make the news into this kind of consumer business, pretty soon audiences lose the ability to distinguish between what they think they’re doing, informing themselves, and what they’re actually doing, shopping.
The big problem is that TV “news” these days is just too easy, both to produce and consume. But actually staying informed in an age of a constant flood of data is not easy.
You need to seek out sources you can trust to tell the truth (even if it’s not always what you want to hear). Then take the time to regularly read/watch/listen to them. And then you need to continually question the information they provide. It’s hard work.
So, is the American TV news audience dumb? Or lazy?