Forwarded from: Richard Forno <firstname.lastname@example.org>
[While there is very little about information security in this, I
figured all the frenzied news junkies on the list might enjoy
mainlining this. :) - WK]
Article with reference links:
On Avoiding The Cable News Establishment
9 December 2001: Essay #2001-14
(c) 2001 by Author. Permission is granted to quote, reprint or redistribute
provided the text is not altered, and appropriate credit is given.
Summary: Comments on WTF the cable news channels are doing to their
Reader feedback will be placed here
Disclaimer: I am as American and patriotic as the next person, and my
work experience and interests will prove that. If you're in doubt,
read my bio.
While some may call me a "news junkie" the simple fact is that I want
to know what's happening around the world each day. For that, I turn
to the radio, television, and Internet for a diverse assortment of
sources from which I can make my own judgments about current affairs
in the world. In short, I want to do a very dangerous thing in
America.....think for myself and make my own value judgements about
today's events. C'est la guerre.
Having said that, I am boycotting the mainstream American television
news organizations that essentially serve as the private sector based
propaganda arm of the federal government and commercial interests. Not
to mention, it's plain annoying to watch these days. Plus, the
American news organizations are more enamored with playing Armchair
General (trying to second-guess the military, or using gee-whiz
graphics to show squad-level tactics on how to conquer a cave in
Afghanistan), conducting rushed interviews with subject matter
experts, or spinning pro-American messages in their editorials rather
than educating the public and providing genuine news information. It's
just "Hollywood" shaped as "news." Compare that with PBS' News Hour,
where a recent interview of three subject matter experts on the
Taliban ran for twelve minutes and wasn't rushed to get another
commercial break in, or for the anchor to ask a moronic question that
side-steps the heart of the matter in favor of sensationalist leading
questions. On 'commercial' news television, the interview might have
been given five minutes, and chances are the anchor would interrupt
someone to go to commercial break. Put another way, when you watch the
News Hour, you come away educated, not overwhelmed or simply fed the
mainstream party line.
That being said, I'm forced to say that I'm staying as far away from
the cable networks (CNN, CNN Headline News, Fox News Channel (FNC),
and MSNBC) as I can. These days, I now get my news from PBS' News
Hour, National Public Radio, BBC, C-SPAN, Deutche Welle, any number of
overseas sources, and the Internet. The American networks are too
focussed on anything American that they gloss over or ignore
equally-important events overseas that directly impact our country.
For example, until three suicide bombers killed dozens in Israel last
week, and Israel responded with military force, few if any Americans
knew that the situation in the Middle East is the worst it's been in
nearly a decade until the "breaking news" appeared to interrupt their
coverage of the Afghanistan Affair.
Remember that the White House has consulted media and entertainment
executives on at least two (that we know of) meetings to discuss how
to entertain, inform, and garner public support for the 'war effort'
in light of 09-11. So it's no surprise that we're seeing what we're
seeing on the tube. After all, depending on whom you watch, America
is "Under Attack," "Under Siege," "On Alert", "Under Assault," "At
War," and "In Crisis." To round things off, there's also "Target:
America" and "America Strikes Back." Even when watching a non-news
program (eg, "news-fotainment", such as call-in shows and such) you
see these phrases splashed on the screen. We also see the CNN "War
Room" and the NBC "Terrorism Task Force" doing research and reports
for us as well, striving to be the 'PR Pentagon' complete with floor
maps, topographic overlays, and scores of retired general officers
doing the assorted on-air analysis for us. Understandably, the White
House is attempting to conduct reactive damage control to the American
public's apathy toward world events; instead of developing a long-term
and more effective public awareness campaign for American policy, it's
simply in-your-face, cheap, and obvious propaganda. After all, the
goal of this media blitz is to garner public support for what everyone
keeps saying is going to be a 'long war' against terrorism. So why not
take a more rational approach to this necessary undertaking?
Thus, as concerned citizens who are hopefully patriotic, we must -
like cattle - turn to the news channels for reassurance and "the
latest" on whatever America's "At," "In, " or "Under" this hour, and
be exposed to the following:
CRAWL AWAY. First and foremost, information "crawlers" are perfectly
acceptable for daily use on financial news channels, but since
September 11, they are everywhere. Turn to watch CNN's "Crossfire" and
there's a ticker, as is there one on CNBC during non-market hours when
watching "National Geographic Explorer." Couple this crawler with the
logo for the show you're watching and any information captions on
who's talking, the "LIVE" or "BREAKING" indicators, and you've got a
very noisy screen to look at. Even CNBC added a news crawler at the
bottom of the screen that contains news tidbits that you can try to
read while monitoring your stocks on the traditional ticker, and
there's one on VH-1's morning show to offset today's music videos.
Worse yet, picture a show with goofy animations or captions (eg,
CNN's usually good "Reliable Sources" program) that has text going
left, right, left, and right, while the crawler crawls from right to
left. Talk about a distraction - one wonders if CNN will provide
viewers with advertisements for dramamine before each program.
The crawler was a subject of a recent op-ed by Peter Beinart, editor
of The New Republic. Howard Kurtz, host of CNN's "Reliable Sources" -
a show that he claims "turns a critical lens on the media" - responded
on 8 December by smugly saying, "We at CNN are sorry that our valiant
effort to provide the public with more news is straining your brain.
Most people, I guess this doesn't include magazine editors, can
process more than one piece of information at a time. Walk and chew
gum, so to speak. My kids can do it, anyone can do it. The world's a
complex place, lots of data coming in at once. I could be talking
about Afghanistan, and the crawl could tell you about that super-duper
scooter called "It". You wouldn't want to be the only guy who doesn't
know about "It," would you? It's the Internet age, we all have to
adapt, or the terrorist will have won....So, my advice, Mr. Beinart,
get with the program." I like Howard, but his flippant response was
indicative of the ego-centric, controlling nature of the content
providers in today's day and age. Sadly, I agree with Beinart and
don't think the crawlers will go away anytime soon, so I will go away
from the crawlers.
Message to the media: We're not in a play-by-play crisis like the week
following September 11. Crawlers served their purpose that first week,
but are pissing your viewers off now, particularly since you use them
to promote what's "coming up" on your websites, in online chats, or
later in the day. Use crawls when there's emergency stuff going on,
not for advertising purposes or for routine news items that would only
appear in the next segment anyway.
MEDIA TERMINOLOGY. Also, "BREAKING NEWS" should be considered
"BREAKING" while it's happening, not used as a teaser for a shift in
program coverage hours after the event occured. "BREAKING NEWS" is not
watching HAZMAT vehicles rolling up to a building in Florida, but the
original news that there might be a possible anthrax situation down
there. Nor should the B-roll (the video shown on the screen while the
reporter is speaking) of such trucks be still marked as "BREAKING"
three hours later in the evening. In a similar vein, "LIVE" means
"we're watching it as it happens" not that it happened "sometime that
day." If it's not happening in real-time as I'm watching, make sure we
know it's "EARLIER TODAY."
Viewers will agree that "BREAKING NEWS" should not be used to indicate
"a new story" either, but to alert them to a truly important item that
warrants viewer attention. However, the more "BREAKING NEWS" the news
channels can throw on the screen - for whatever reason - the more
viewers will be hooked through a few more commercial slots, and thus
there is a business need to have "BREAKING NEWS" during the broadcast
day. That's why today's current segue to a commercial break goes
something like this: "And when we come back, we have some breaking
news to report on from Afghanistan....." Yet, after the commercial
break, viewers are first "brought up to date with the latest
information" and then presented a snippet of something new that will
be elaborated on further "when we come back" from yet another
commercial break. It's no wonder the anchors call this a "time-out"
instead of a "commercial" - we need a time-out from the malarkey they
shovel at us.
JULY FOURTH, EVERY DAY. Further, while I'm as American as the next
person, why do our news channels continue to inundate viewers with the
omnipresent computer-generated flags and/or the red-white-and-blue
motif? Try to watch a cable news program and not find a
computer-generated American flag waving in the background behind the
show's caption bar (CNN and MSNBC), in the upper left corner (FNC), or
even on the scoreboard of a college soccer game (Comcast) or Monday
Night Football (ABC)....even NBC has one waving inside it's "peacock"
logo during primetime programming. Do these media morons think we are
so stupid that we need to be reminded constantly that we're
Americans? Cable news operators repeatedly claim they try to make an
objective, unbiased presentation to their viewers. At the risk of
sounding unpatriotic, it's hard to be objective when you have one
person's flag waving in your face at every opportunity, don't you
B-ROLL HELL. Quit showing the same B-roll of America's Most Wanted
Terrorist every time there's a story about him. How many times have we
seen Osama clad in white, kneeling and firing an AK-47, or his scrawny
hands curled around a steel microphone (you know, the one where he's
wearing a camoflague field jacket) or festooned in white grinning like
the Cheshire Cat at a family wedding? Will we continue to see that
mid-90s footage of him walking around talking on the handheld radio
with the long whip antenna, or laying on his side on a mat in an
Afghanistan cave? How about him giving a speech while stroking his
Kalishnikov? Enough is enough! We know what the ugly cuss looks like -
he doesn't need any more free publicity - and we don't need to see his
bearded mug over and over to become even more full of pro-American
sentiment. But mark my words, a news anchor will mention 'Bin Laden'
and one of the clips I just named will be rolled, probably more than
once, during the segment.
DON'T INSULT OUR ENEMY. On a slightly different note - and this
started in the print journalism world - if you didn't know, Reuters
News Service angered many lawmakers and citizens by refusing to call
those that planned and conducted September 11th's events as
"terrorists." In a statement, Reuters' CEO and Editor-in-Chief stated
that "Our policy is to avoid the use of emotional terms and not make
value judgments concerning the facts we attempt to report accurately
and fairly." Far be it to be politicly-incorrect in this period of (as
of today, still) an undeclared 'war' on terrorism. CNN.COM even has a
statement confirming to the world that it indeed uses the term
"terrorists" and has no reservations about that moniker in the news
business. We would not want to offend those that masterminded the
events of September 11, would we? Somehow I don't think that branding
Osama a "terrorist" will be the spark that causes him to plan
additional harm on his enemies, he's pretty much got that figured out
already, provided he's around to see it And don't tell me that "one
man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter" line of malarkey.
Firefighters fight fire, crimefighters fight crime, so what exactly do
freedom fighters fight?
One final note - has anyone else noticed that since September 11th,
CNN's programs all have the same music (the 'dump-dump' drum roll
tune) to start their shows and to bumper commercial spots? Or how ol'
Wolf Blitzer "hands you off" to Bill Press and "Crossfire?" As if Wolf
is looking out for our personal well-being and intends to hand-hold
each of us during this time of tragedy. How reassuring.
Until cable network news organizations do the responsible thing and
provide not only more thorough and balanced information to their
viewers, but in a way that isn't distracting, cluttered, or insulting
to our collective national psyche, I'll avoid them like the plague,
and continue to receive my news from more objective, educated, and
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Received on Thu Dec 13 06:31 CST 2001