There are many words that we can use to describe the current status of the news media of our times. One of those platitudes would be, to be polite, they “suck”. This of course is in a general sense. They don’t suck entirely on all the subjects. When there is a need for detailed and comprehensive research and reporting, the old news establishments are still the top dogs, but when it comes to daily, 24×7, grab-users-attention-at-all-costs news cycle they pretty much suck. Don’t take my word for it. The Pew Research center’s poll shows that “more than half of Americans say US news organizations are politically biased, inaccurate, and don’t care about the people they report about“. We like them when they report on really important things, but we truly hate them when they report things as if they are really important. Media reporting on Hurricanes – they are good. Media reporting on a celebrity – they suck.
Take Carmegeddon for example. If you did not what that means, I appreciate your innocence. Carmegeddon is one of the many words that TV pundits gave to the supposedly nightmare traffic blockage that was going to happen this weekend. The other word-hybirds they used were ‘epic-gridlock’, ‘traffic jam of biblical proportions’ and my favorite ‘carpocalyse’. The reason for the traffic block? The closure of a segment of Los Angeles’ I-405 highway due to construction. If you had tuned in to any of the major news channels last week, be it CNN, MSNBC, ABC or FOX, you would have seen bright headlines with flashing red alert signs reporting the closing of parts of the highway for the weekend as if it is the greatest transportation based disaster since the Titanic. Sure the I-405 is the one of the busiest highways in the country but certainly a traffic jam is something that America can withstand. (Watch Stephen Colbert’s hilarious take on this).
For a whole week the media has been hyping this up and the best part about this story came out when they did actually close the highway on Saturday. The news outlets had their helicopters ready and they were flying over the stretches of the highway only to find almost empty to mildly occupied roads. No matter how much they searched they could not find the disastrous traffic jam that was foretold. Its as if the people understood the complex problem of road work and somehow managed to figure out that all they have to do was to take a different route. Its almost as if people have a normal functioning brain. You would think this would have shown these so called reporters how void of value they have become but, of course, they found a way to go around that too. Any guesses?
That’s right, they reported on how the carmegeddon did not happen. News websites gave a detailed run down of how the traffic jam was averted because, surprise, motorists used GPS devices to find alternative routes. Time.com gets ‘The Most Useless Headline Of The Month award for this. I am the kind of guy who finds humor in almost everything, but this one was more depressing than funny. They report something that is nothing to begin with, predict something big is about to happen and we all should freak out and then, as normalcy dictates, nothing happens and they report that as if there is no egg on their faces. When did we get to the point that anything that happens is news and why is everything a breaking story? Can we not break anything unless its really necessary. Road work, rogue balloons and Ashton Kutcher are not even news, let alone breaking news. And there is such a surprise when Americans say they don’t trust the news media.
This is the reason why people trust a news satirist Jon Stewart more than actual reporters.
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