When I was a kid in the late 60s living at my grandparent’s house in Defiance Ohio, every day started with the "Today" show. The show then featured Hugh Downs, Barbara Walters, Joe Garagiola and Frank Blair. I was to young to understand the issues of the day, I just remember that The show always opened with "Good Morning", and "Welcome". Hugh Downs, Barbara Walters and especially Joe Garagiola would be upbeat. Then they would cut to Frank Blair with the news. I thought that this guy was kind of a downer. He would bum us out with footage of the war in Vietnam and riots at home. He really brought the party down. Then I turned six and realized that what he said was important, even if I didn’t really understand it.
I have noticed lately when people have been asked to comment on a current event they respond with, "Oh, I don't watch the news. It's so negative". Forgive my cynicism, but my first impression with some of the people who make that comment is that they are using a moral high ground to mask disinterest, ignorance, or apathy to that current event. I can’t help but to think that years and years of disinterest, ignorance, and apathy to current events has brought us to the place where we are now in the world. Yes we all get tired of the "If it bleeds, it leads" style of many news programs, but it still works. The Scott Peterson case had absolutely no journalistic merit whatsoever, yet it was turned into a reality mini-series. Just because the news is bad does not always mean that it’s negative. For example, "More soldiers dead in Iraq" is bad news. "Something in your kitchen can kill you. Details at eleven." is negative news. By the way how do put a positive spin on a war? Other than, "It’s over", or "We won".
In the time between waking up and the time I pour my first cup of coffee, I am in a state of practical cynicism. When I turn on the morning news. I want to know what happened overnight, the weather forecast and the traffic report/freeway conditions. In other words, is it worth getting out of bed today? Instead all I see is another report about Janet Jackson showing one part of her anatomy to a large audience, while her brother Michael is showing another part of his anatomy to a smaller audience. Then Martha Stewart goes to jail, Bill O' Riley is accused of sexual harassment, Ashlee Simpson was lip-synching and Julia Roberts had twins. Most of these stories are entertainment stories and we already have several shows and a whole cable channel dedicated to entertainment news. When I want real entertainment news, I read "The Hollywood Reporter" and "Daily Variety". I also see stories about wedding planning, makeovers and barbecuing a tri-tip. We have other venues for all of this too.
TV news has turned into a Las Vegas style buffet of stories. We have a large variety of stories served up quickly. Instead of us watching the news to be informed on what is happening in the world, we now have a menu from where we can choose whatever news we want to watch. If you don’t like one brand of news, you can pick one that you do like. Fox News caters to those who find other media outlets to liberal (by the way I believe that the media is only as liberal as the corporations who own it). CBN presents the news from a Christian perspective. It’s the only news show where you can see an act of God, hear why God did what he did then find out what you need to do so he doesn’t do it again. Many feel that the BBC’s news coverage is less slanted than their American counterparts. Others get their news from late-night comedians, especially "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" because they feel that the best form of comedy is based in truth. The show has managed through comedy to ask questions of the newsmakers (and the news media) that are on the viewer’s minds, but aren’t being asked on the "real" news shows.
After 9/11 we asked, "who", "how" and "why"? Maybe if we weren’t being fed a steady diet of O.J. & Monica we would have known.
To quote Jon Stewart on CNN’s CROSSFIRE, "You're on CNN. The show that leads into me is puppets making crank phone calls."