Is News Dead?

by: Thamer AlHamidi

Since coming to the country I have been astonished by what I’ve seen on the news. I’m not talking about scenes of violence, nudity, or anything of the like—I’m talking about useless rhetoric. It seems that in recent years, the news media has been filled with newscasters who are doing little more than trying to get ratings; using network television as a soapbox to see who can spit out the most controversial, biased, un-newsworthy garb they can muster, the problem is, it’s selling. For example:

I would personally like to know how this is news. O’reilly mentions that he had “…no choice but to uphold the constitution.” I also fail to see how this is true. Nicholas lemann writes in his New Yorker artice Fear Factor that “It is hard to remember, without taking a minute to think about it, who delivers the morning and evening news on the cable networks, or who the main reporters are. Cable is not a medium for providing information, and it is not going to become one anytime soon.”

If cable news is not a medium for providing information, than what is it? In our Practices of Looking excerpt number 1, the author writes “The way we rate media is based on where that media stands in relation to older and newer media, and on cultural assumptions about the importance of various media and whether they are primarily oriented towards entertainment, news, or information.” Programs like the O’Reily factor is of course leaning more towards the sensationalist entertainment news category. But if this is rated as the top news program in quarter one of 2009 according to the Huffington Post, what does that say about modern societies values as far as information is concerned, especially considering how important information is for a democratic society to run correctly?

Coming in 3rd for the ratings spot was Glenn Beck.

In that clip, Glenn Beck asks the democratically elected congressman to “prove” to him that he is not “part of the enemy.” The issue here is that news is not being reported. Propaganda, according to Webster’s dictionary, is defined as “the spreading of ideas, information, or rumor for the purpose of helping or injuring an institution, a cause, or a person.” I realize that propaganda is a strong word but consider this: Beck had no factual cause to link this man with terrorists. He is planting a seed in his viewers mind by asking an unanswerable question of the congressman, this unnecessary and underserved questioning from Beck is exactly the kind of rhetoric that does little more than insight unsubstantiated doubt in the minds of the viewer. I am left to wonder what will become of the news media as bloggers, tweeters, and facebookers begin to take the forefront. The main question will be up to society, do we want news or entertainment?




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