Media Blackout

The world needs a break from 24 hour news networks.  They’re poisonous, and not just Fox, which is intentionally poisonous.

Over the course of time, and more specifically this campaign season I’ve realized that what some might refer to as the Death of Journalism is not a willful disrespect, or bias, but rather a necessity of format.  24-hour news networks simply don’t have enough news to validate their existence, yet there are three major ones, with several financially-oriented offshoots.  CNN, Fox, and MSNBC all suffer the same problem: Lack of Substance.

There is barely enough newsworthy material in a day to fill the primetime news hours on network, let alone 24-7 coverage on a full three dedicated stations all vieing for supremacy.  Somewhere along the line, everyone realized this, and instead of doing the civil thing, that is saying on air “We, the people responsible for this network have made a terrible mistake, and in doing so cheapened one of the most important professions of the past 200 years, goodnight.” they found a way to serve not as news reporters and journalists, but as news makers and sensationalists.

Apart from Fox, none of the 24 hour networks have any notable bias, any percieved liberal bias is due to their competition with Fox, an unabashedly conservative organization.  Take this election for example.  It is my belief, that if John McCain received the kind of coverage given to Barack Obama, or was simply covered at all in any relatively even-handed way, the race would be over.  America would see a doddering old man, obviously suffering the mental affects of age, and leading a campaign that would frankly embarass even such fuckup luminaries as Michael Dukakis.

That’s a bad story though, the election over in the middle of July?  That’s terrible for ratings!  No, we, as the media, must keep this going by boosting one candidate, be it by polls with shoddy methodology (see: Likely Voters polls, wherein you can strike from the count anyone on the basis of “they probably won’t show up”) or endless “analysis” that does little more than parrot and debate talking points from one side or another.

There’s another business benefit to this, as well.  Its cheap.  Really cheap, I’m talking cable-access cheap.  If you don’t have to send a journalist out to find a story, research it, get their proverbial shit on the shelf, and present it, you save thousands of dollars and hundreds of man-hours right there.  By following the talking-head model of endless analysis and innuendo, you save money, and keep news cycles going indefinitely, long past their organic sell-by date.  It is essentially life-support for 24-hour news networks.

And if there isn’t something political, there’s usually something of horrific violence, or lewd sexuality, or please oh god please both.  You can then mold events ranging from school shootings, Elton John doing something and Hurricane Katrina into more than mere disasters, but political issues, thus feeding your machine, keeping it going.

Finally, when you’ve got nothing left to say, do not worry, because surely someone, somewhere will have called you on your bullshit, and you can then talk about yourselves for a week or two before something else happens.

What we need as a nation, and indeed as a civilization is a media blackout.  A voluntary media blackout.  Everyone should set up a time and date, and agree to not watch a single second of cable news for a month.  perhaps read the newspapers, or watch the nightly news, whatever you feel you need to do to keep current in world affairs.  I wonder if at the end of that month, when everyone returns to cable news they might see it a little differently.  They might view these shenanigans for what they are, and respond with the only proper response to such cynical abuse of the people.

Outrage.

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