Nuke War Kids Under Desk

I would like nothing more than to ignore TV news, but because writing and commentating about it is what I do, and because one cannot ignore what goes on around one, we, I,  cannot afford to do that. So I keep watching. Being uninformed is not an option. Being misinformed by those who report the news is worse.

Day after day, I cringe as I watch and listen to what passes for reporting and how it is reported. Every so often, a rant is in order. Today is one of those every-so-oftens. Most of the quotes below are my own creations in order to to make a point… but you’ll have to admit, they’re not far off.

rant alert

Dear News Programs,

Please refrain from:

  • Creating “click bait” headlines (in this case, clicking on one’s remote control) to garner ratings instead of, you know, accurately reporting actual news (which is scary enough all on its own): Stop with the dire “Who is really iWatching you?!” chyrons, and premature ones like, “Hillary! Who can stop her?!” The voters can, but that would ruin all those meaningless poll and horse race stories. “Hillary’s numbers have dropped! Who will be the Democratic nominee in ’16 now?!” We didn’t know who the 2016 nominee would be yesterday, for f’sake. And we didn’t know in 2013. Or on November 7, 2012. Here’s an idea: Stop speculating on presidential elections four (and eight) years before they take place.
  • Using the phrase “a bit” when you mean “huge”: “Ray Rice has a bit of a temper.” “The Republican Party has a bit of a woman voter problem.” And the news media has “a bit” of a quality control problem.
  • Making crises into movie trailers, including ominous music stings and dramatic graphics: “ISIS at our borders?? Americans ready to take up arms to protect the homeland!” “ISIS beheading: Who’s next?!!” “Searching for Justice! Can Ferguson survive?!” Newsflash, news
    [sic] media: We’re scared enough of reality without the special effects-enhanced fear-mongering (and stop saying, “Homeland”!). But since you’re set on perpetuating a national duck-and-cover mentality, how about concentrating on headlines like, “Fracking is horrible for your health and causes earthquakes!” and “Climate change is here, so stop calling it a hoax, you idiots!” and “War in the Middle East didn’t work before, and it won’t work now!” and “Hey? Remember voting rights?” and “Gun violence is out of control. Stop using deadly weapons as penile enhancements!” At least chyrons like those are accurate and sadly, novel. And they don’t need musical underscores or fancy schmancy graphics to make the point.
  • Hiring commentators who are stupid, ill-mannered, ignorant, ill-prepared, and/or politically homogeneous: “Beltway commentators'” opinions are as predictable as their vernacular. So-called “centrist” commentators are just as bad, and all too often tend to lean right. In fact, the two seem indistinguishable. Also, when opposing party members overtalk either the hosts or each other, shut them up. Nobody can be heard when two mics are being babbled into anyway, and don’t even start me on common courtesy and civility. And how about correcting willful ignorance or erroneous statements? When a GOP guest accuses Dems of “creating a War on Women,” and the inept Dem guest fails to nail the GOP lie, how about correcting the record? If Candy Crowley can fact check during a 2012 presidential debate, so can a show host. Two words: Follow up.
  • Hiring inept show hosts: So many examples, so little time.
  • Ignoring investigative reporters: You’ve got 24 hours a day to impart real, factual news stories. And those stories did not start the minute your show did, there are back stories. There is context (see: Engel, RichardMaddow, Rachel; Leopold, Jason.). There is history. There are reasons events happen, repeat, and crescendo. Dig into them. There are reasons we are seeing our civil rights disappear. Explain why, teach your viewers. An uninformed/misinformed electorate is terrible for democracy. Who, what, when, where, how, and why: All of them matter.
  • Mispronouncing the names of whatever or whomever you’re discussing: If you are the organization or person imparting information, then do so responsibly. Learning how to say the name of the public figure about whom you’re centering an entire segment or having on as a guest would be a good start. Becoming educated and knowledgeable enough to be paid a good salary to be on TV to address and influence millions of viewers should require being well-prepared. To even have to suggest this is troubling; it should be a given.
  • Repeating the same 3 or 4 news stories day in and day out: You’ve got 24 hours, 7 days a week to cover more than the same old handful of stories over and over again, ad nauseam. There is no excuse for redundance when there is so much going on in so many places. Those small, local stories, the “insignificant” ones? They grow and develop into Big Stories. Just ask the residents of Fort Lee, New Jersey.
  • Commercializing the news: This is the root of all the above problems. It’s all about profit, all about the bottom line. Wait a minute, isn’t that exactly the same premise someone on MSNBC just mentioned while explaining the NFL response to the criminal actions of its players? Why yes, yes it is.