I stopped watching the TV news a few weeks ago and I feel like a great weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I took this decision because the following has become the typical half hour news bulletin on all channels:
Death/Violent assault (stupid people doing stupid things)
Politics (corruption, incompetence & stupidity)
Natural disaster (hopefully in Australia)
Terrorist attack (higher if in a western country, lower or not reported if in a third world country)
Female celebrity wears dress on red carpet
Economic bad news (except for rich people and corporations)
Sports (mainly drug scandals)
Weather (always worse than the average)
A cow, horse or dog being rescued from a muddy ditch (or elephant if no local footage)
All of these ‘events’ are reported with breathless excitement, sensationalised and exaggerated beyond recognition. A murder results in ‘a city in shock’, and neighbours ‘coming to terms’ with the crime. And there is always a neighbour who describes the axe murderer who butchered several people as, ‘such a nice, quiet man’. (I suspect TV channels carry stock footage of such people especially for these occasions)
Reporting of natural disasters always begins with, ‘hundreds are feared dead’, and often ends with, ‘no casualties have been reported’. Reporters are shipped to the scene of an impending cyclone so they can hamper rescue personnel by standing in the street with umbrellas turned inside out by the not-really-strong-enough wind in front of a fallen tree branch, while back in the studio the disappointment is palpable.
A deranged criminal who holds up a few people in a café results in, ‘a city under siege’ and the claim that, ‘Sydney is in lockdown’.
The manipulation of the news is also astounding. The ‘Ebola crisis’, which heralded the end of the world a short time ago, no longer makes it to a bulletin, even when someone local is suspected of having the disease. Phew! The world must be safe.
We even have newsreaders interviewing reporters, who repeat the story they just told us!
And so it goes on, each report padded with hyperbole, unnecessary repetition and breathless excitement. This has been a staple of the commercial channels for some time, but now even the ABC, which could until recently be counted on to report the news, now can’t mention a storm without calling it ‘savage’ or ‘deadly’, or beginning a report on the death of a well-known citizen with, ‘a town is in mourning tonight’, despite the probability that half the people there have never heard of the person or are celebrating his or her death.
In other words, the TV news has become reverse entertainment, in that it is designed to leave you scared and depressed instead of enlightened and informed.
Newspapers are not much better, so I get my news from the internet now, where there are still news sites that actually report and inform without sensation. They provide useful information, and articles are written by journalists with insight and intelligence. Yes, these people still exist if you invest a little time finding them in the out-of-the-way online publications to which they have been driven.
In my new No-TV-News world, things look brighter. We are not on the verge of extinction, terrorists are not taking over the world, climate change is being addressed on a global scale, compassionate countries are helping refugees, murder and mayhem are not rampant and, to the intense disappointment of TV news producers, I feel positive about our future.
Do you watch news on the TV? Do you think there is still quality reporting? Or do you agree with Steven?