Thursday, October 09, 2003

Breaking News!

Hope that got your attention, because CNN sure hope it does every time they put that up on the screen. But I have a feeling you don't really give a damn about the latest random bit of news coming out of Atlanta. If you haven't noticed yet, CNN's website as well as the TV station are filled to the brim with overemphasized trivia and "news". The website is bordering on tabloid while the station is way beyond information overload.

Do I really need to know that Beyonce will be releasing not one, but two clothing lines to appease both the Ghetto Fab in her as well as the Prada/Gucci/Manolo wearing Queen that her man Jay-Z loves?

Now, I don't want to make it seem like CNN's the only TV/Web media outlet that does this, but there are certainly better ways to satisfy the news junkie in all of us. Take ESPN for example...they along with Fox Sports started the trend of the news ticker, as far as I can remember. While the latest sports scores are perfect for this, especially on a busy sports day when every sports stat is important, the lack of meaningful non-sports news just makes a ticker useless. What's more, it desensitizes us to the news which actually means something. So not only does the ticker not bring anything to the table, it takes away from the table...Props to the Sports Guy for simplifying the decision making process...if it takes away from the table, get rid of it!

So what's the solution? Well, news tickers scrolling across your TV screen are here to stay; in fact they're spreading (E!, Oxygen, etc). The nature of the web also makes posting the latest random news online very easy. But how about supplementing shallow news items with in-depth coverage of not just the "story" but the larger problem at hand. ESPN does this all the time with in-depth stories about everything from drug use by atheletes to the trend of younger and younger athletes. The fact of the matter is that even though ESPN satisfies the trivia, stats & sports junkie in all of us, they actually do a better job at giving perspective to readers about issues beyond the latest tidbit. Sure, we love ESPN for all the hilarity on Page 2, but I certainly appreciate the attempts by ESPN to look at the more serious side of sports. I may take te seriousness is small doses, but at least I have the option.

But lets be realistic, ESPN is far from the perfect place to learn about meaningful issues which will actually affect us. That crown certainly has to go to BBC News. Sure, BBC gives info junkies what they need, but they also give people a real chance to learn about the issues around a news event like a bombing in the Middle East. And if you've never heard the BBC World Service, it's time to check it out. Perhaps you don't want to listen to a 25 minute report on the future role of the UN, but the fact that a news agency has the insight to actually consider that the role of the UN could change significantly and that listeners should pause and think about it is heartening.

You hear talk about how The People need to be more concerned about "real issues" Well, how about the major media outlets giving us a chance to learn about what the issues are? A two minute report on World News Tonight isn't enough, a headline or two isn't enough. You can say that the media are simply responding to what The Market wants, but the fact that BBC news is as successful as it is, should tell us that there is a real market for it.

I'm not going to continue this rant by talking about American media cow-towing to the current Bush administration or anything like that. The argument could be made either way, but regardless of the admin currently in power, journalism is about curiousity and skepticism. If journalism is about nothing more than relaying the latest events, then is it really giving us what we need?

So let's give props to the outlets that try to give us a wider view on things: BBC, NPR, New York Times, etc. My list is a certainly left-leaning, but regardless of left or right, let's all demand more from our news. It's time for more than news tickers and ranting on talk shows.

No comments: