When race-related incidents including riots like occurred in Ferguson, Missouri and currently Baltimore, cable TV goes into overdrive. This overdrive is mostly from Cable TV talk show programs. Whether it’s Fox News, CNN and, or MSNBC the format for covering these incidents are pretty much the same. Talk show hosts report on these incidents using a format that does not conform to the standards of journalism.
Acting as if they are experts on all social issues, Talk Show hosts are not shy in giving their opinions on whatever news they cover. Some even gets emotional and confrontational with guests on their shows who dare to oppose their point-of-view.
What exactly is the objective or benefit of cable TV providing this constant coverage much of which becomes recycled up a day or two? For example, the Baltimore mom who slapped her son and chased him home during the first day of the riot has been shown repeatedly by cable TV for the past three days since the incident occurred.
Unlike traditional broadcast television – CBS, NBC, and ABC – Cable TV Talk shows tends to create more confusion and controversy. For example, last Wednesday night, CNN’s Anderson Cooper interviewed an identified man who is a friend of one of the police officer involved in the Freddie Gray’s case. It was clear that this man was trying to protect his friend based on the hearsay information he supposedly got from his friend who is facing possible murder charge. He made comments that Gray was trying to hurt himself in the van, and even suggested that his injuries might have been self-inflicted.
During the riots in Baltimore, cable TV reporters on the street interviewed people randomly to get their opinion. Is this really useful in helping to get the facts or is it just a way they sensationalize this story? The objective of covering news should be to get the facts and cover the story based on the facts. Talking with random people, even experts who were not near the incident and are fed with information from the talk show host, and mystery people being interviewed and providing hearsay comments only creates more confusion and controversy that the talk show host seems to thrive on.
The following comments by Teresa Stover aptly sum up how cable TV operates:
The current state of the news media is partially to blame for the public’s general lack of information vital for responsible citizenship in a democracy. The news media has become an aspect of show business, offering merely infotainment. It has evolved into an entity that tends to function as a public relations agency for wealthy and powerful multinational corporations, members of Congress, the current Presidential Administration including the administrations that preceded it.
The news media is being utilized as a political tool of suppression and propaganda by those in power, and propaganda is psychological in nature. Full of half-truths and utter misinformation, it’s an arrogant and very commercial strategy that is implemented because it appeals to emotions, fear being the main one relentless talk of national security, personal and community safety, can trigger childhood insecurities and indoctrinated views of authority.
Based on Ms. Stover’s comments it is easy to conclude that cable TV stations have provided no real social benefits. How can they when they have aligned themselves to politics (Fox News is rigidly conservative) MSNBC is liberal, and CNN is somewhere in the middle) and consequently have polarized the country politically. And it is not just politics that they align themselves on as do they do so with race-related incidents.
In many cases, as Ms. Stover alludes to, some cable TV Talk Show hosts resort to adulterating their discussions with facts, half-truths, and propaganda. This adulteration of the news makes their listeners think they are getting accurate and objective information. We have seen the propaganda that one Cable TV station uses or support on President Obama.
Cable TV stations are driven by ratings, which force them to compete with each other. Consequently, they tend to sensationalize the news they cover. What they are presenting is electronic tabloid journalism. Wednesday night, Fox News show showed Geraldo Rivera getting into in your face confrontation with a protester. Mr. Rivera is not new to controversy and one has to wonder if he manipulated the situation to get into a shouting match with the young man. Last night he shouted to some protesters and a white man calling him “white thug.”
Mr. Revera’s behavior is what I call “electronic tabloid news reporting” aimed only to sensationalize what is happening on the streets. Reporting the news in accordance with journalistic standard is not easy as it requires reporting facts, be objective, getting to the through, and have been the courage to report it. Cable TV falls short of these standards and as a result adds no value to the coverage they provide.
If you are fatigued from constantly watching recycled footage for several days like in the Freddy Gray case in Baltimore, then you are not alone. This fatigue is what could be called “Cable TV syndrome.” This syndrome numbs the mind and is hard on the eyes.
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