Commentary

We CAN'T Relax -- And It's Because Of The News

What is the role of journalism in today’s society?

When I was in college, I took some journalism classes (that’s kind of a requirement at Syracuse) and I was taught that journalists are responsible for the fair and accurate reporting of the news. Journalism was a noble profession.  And the evening news anchors were able to separate their personal opinions from the facts of the day.  

These days we live in a world where journalists are unable to separate fact from opinion.  As a matter of fact, our world discourages that separation, instead fostering the opportunity for journalists to become pundits and to embrace more sensational types of reporting.  It’s the same environment that has fostered the expansion of fake news and made it very difficult for everyday people to separate reality TV from what’s real.

Just look at the news over the last six weeks.  Our 24-hour news cycle is dominated by both right- and left-wing politics that speak down to those of us in the middle.  We have “front line” reporters drawing what was obviously the short straw and being sent directly into Houston, Tampa and Miami to stand in 150 MPH winds and tell us the obvious fact that its windy and raining.  We have sports reporters who are more obsessed with shock and awe and creating arguments than providing a fair and balanced approach (if you’re curious what I mean, watch Steven A. Smith on ESPN as he dukes it out with whatever unfortunate person is seated across the table from him).  

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All these tactics seem to be aiming more to create a sensationalistic approach to news in order to generate ratings than to report the news and give us the facts, allowing us to have our own opinions.  

Is all of this the fault of news organizations?  No.  This is the product of choice.  Consumers have have more competition for their severely fractured attention spans.  Sensationalism sells.  Excitement, panic and fear sells.  

Our society is bombarded by such graphic imagery on a daily basis that the next person in line feels the need to be even crazier in order to get us to notice them.

 I remember back in the old days, when Howard Stern was a “shock jock” on the radio and what he did and said seemed to push the boundaries of what was polite.  I rarely hear about Howard Stern anymore — and I think that’s because he is rarely viewed in that way anymore.  Stern is mainstream, and the fringes are even crazier than he ever was.

I guess my diatribe is not truly about journalists — at least, not them alone.  It’s about the society that has spawned so many changes in the media and the resultant effect on us, the audience.   

Dan Rather and Walter Cronkite simply wouldn’t get our attention anymore, regardless of what format of media they would be using.  Our brains have become numb to the middle, and the extremes are all that can get us going.  It’s how we ended up in a world that is basically run by a reality TV star and dominated by narcissistic characters in all forms.  

In politics, in the news, on sports talk, and everywhere else – if there are facts to be reported or stories to be told, we need the most insane, out-of-the-box, panic-inducing delivery to break through our cluttered, hardened brains.  

It bums me out because our reactions are also over-the-top.  These stories and the ways they are delivered induce stress that our bodies were never wired to receive.

My recommendation for society?  Unplug once in a while — from your devices and from the 24-hour news cycle.  Embrace some normalcy and a conversation with the person right beside you.  Read a book when you go to bed, and assume best intentions from the person sitting next to you, or across the table from you.

Now back to your regularly scheduled media onslaught.

11 comments about "We CAN'T Relax -- And It's Because Of The News".
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  1. Jonathan Hutter from EMHS (Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems), September 13, 2017 at 1:58 p.m.

    I'd disagree with one major point in this essay. The news organizations are primarily at fault IMO. Back when I went to school (same place, probably a little earlier time), news organizations had and felt a responsibility to present news accurately, no matter what audiences, or ad sales, wanted or asked for. In fact, if someone from entertainment or advertising had the nerve to ask something of news, they were shown the door -- into the street.

    Ethics changed in pursuit of the advertising dollar, a natural outflow from ratings. Back in the day, news organizations never posted unconfirmed reports on anything, and anonymous sources wouldn't be quoted unless there was independent confirmation. The story just didn't run otherwise. Nowadays, scoops mean ratings. And if mistakes are made, perhaps an apology will come later. Those are executive decisions, not journalistic ones. 

    One point of agreement - Stephen A is a jerk. But he's entertainment, not journalism.

    My recommendation: don't unplug from news, read it. Something printed, that has taken the time to research and consider all sides before reporting. You may not be informed enough to participate in last week's social media dustup. But you'll be more informed when it comes time to vote. 

  2. Nicholas Schiavone from Nicholas P. Schiavone, LLC replied, September 14, 2017 at 6:20 p.m.

    I regret misspelling your last name.  That mistake was the result of a visual impairment.  Thank you for setting the record straight.

  3. Nicholas Schiavone from Nicholas P. Schiavone, LLC, September 13, 2017 at 3:24 p.m.

    You've scratched the surface deeply, Cory.

    There is grave problem here for individuals, business, and global society

    As Mr. Hunter points out, it's past time for us to start reading, watching and listening to news 
    ... from sources like the NYTimes, America, the PBS NewsHour, Real Time, NPR and the BBC.

    As the Rabbi Hillel said long ago, "If not now, when?  If not me, who?"

    I recognize the irony and sarcasm in your last line, but really.  Has this Hurricane Season taught us nothing about the need to make serious changes ASAP?  The value and impact of an even small change are critical in certain cases.  Time to pay attention to the Angels & Demons.

    Peace,
    Nick
    Nicholas P. Schiavone

  4. Jonathan Hutter from EMHS (Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems) replied, September 14, 2017 at 3:45 p.m.

    That's Hutter! 

  5. Jim Meskauskas from Media Darwin, Inc., September 13, 2017 at 3:52 p.m.

    Remember, media in general is not interested in "right" or "wrong," "fact" or "non-fact." It is interested only in narrative tension and conflict. Keeps the sheeple unsettled, angry, afraid... whatever it takes to keep the limbic system in a state of agitation. This ensures the rational mind doesn't get an opportunity to do much. An irrational agent is more prone to consume in the mindless fashion necessary to keep the old economic engines burning. The media then doles out a little entertainment to sedate us so we can come down from the anxiety high, get refreshed, and then be put back into the cycle.


     

  6. Nicholas Schiavone from Nicholas P. Schiavone, LLC, September 13, 2017 at 5:14 p.m.

    Perhaps one problem is the less than subtle use of the word "media,"
    as in "media in general."

    So glad it does not appear in my commentary or that of Mr. Hunter, as I recall.

    I find Mr. Meskaukas' commentary to be an illustration of what he claims is wrong.

    Media comes from the Latin word for pipe, I think.
     
    Hence, much depends on what we put in the pipe.
    GIGO ... Garbage In, Garbage Out.  Now, we need waste treatment.

    Enough.  This cyclic (or sicklic) discussion is starting to make me anxious.


  7. Jim Meskauskas from Media Darwin, Inc. replied, September 13, 2017 at 5:46 p.m.

    The word "media" comes from the Latin "medium," which is from "medius" meaning middle. But the GIGO idea still holds true. My point wasn't about news specifically but media QUA media, as in, the entire fabric of our background of everydayness that serves to transmit exitrinsically our knowledge and understanding of the world, ourselves, and everything else: print, broadcast, digital... I don't suggest that it's with intent; I think that the category operates like an organism: largely unconscious and in the service of its own survival.

  8. Nicholas Schiavone from Nicholas P. Schiavone, LLC, September 13, 2017 at 6:23 p.m.

    As the Rabbi Nick said long ago:

    Oy Vey.

  9. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, September 13, 2017 at 9:25 p.m.

    The combination of so many sources of news/entertainment all fighting for their share of "bigger, better, best" and the preponderance of the internet of which we have succumbed to have others to think and learn for us, the dumbing down, are 2 main contributors of unregulated, chaotic journalism. Now that we are here, how do journalists reclaim the news ?

  10. Henry Blaufox from DragonSearch, September 14, 2017 at 1:41 p.m.

    News organizations have succumbed to the same reliance on click data that so many in our industry have. For news media, as they have replaced the judgment of seasoned editors with simplistic data reports on what is being followed, it feeds an increasingly vicious cycle. Throw in automated multivariate real time testing of headlines, ledes and images and it adds to the overall replacement of judgment with reliance on instant results. I've seen headlines change on news stories multiple times a day -to generate views, not update the stories based on new facts.

  11. Darrah Catherman from MARC USA, September 14, 2017 at 3:49 p.m.

    Touche! Well Done Corey! 

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