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Press; Personality, Opinion, and Profits

By       Message Betsy L. Angert     Permalink

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copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

Throughout America, the sun rises, sleepy souls awaken, and people turn to the media of choice.  Millions move towards the radio.  More power-up the television.  Countless persons do as their parents did before them; they pick up newspapers, which lie in wait on the porch.  People want to know what is the news across the nation, or at least they did just a short time ago.  Today, perhaps surprisingly, most forms of media have far less appeal than they had just a few years ago.  The ethnic press is still productive.  What Wall Street classifies as "hyper-localism" appeals to the masses.  It seems what survives and thrives in the press is personality and opinion.  Unadulterated accounts are not of interest to those who think them selves highly informed.

In survey after survey, Americans state they know their community and are very familiar with happenings in this country.  They watch television.  The public listens to the radio.  People in this country read.  Yet, indeed, the evidence demonstrates despite a wealth of information accessible to most, if not all, citizens of this country grow increasingly ignorant, unaware of more than what a popular program or a chosen channel wishes to air.  No matter the age of the audience, according to The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press Americans know far less now than they did in 1989.

In recent times, a Presidential Election, consumed the  constituency for near two years.  Yet, the electorate, who thought themselves actively engaged, actually knew less about politics than they had in decades past.

Those who reside in the United States correctly speak of the incredible transformation; however, they do not wish to acknowledge Americans have been dumbed down.  Sure, people may posit their neighbors are not as bright, but let no one question the quality of the facts the more fluid are familiar with.

Let us suppose, by some freak accident, change truly came to America.  Would the public comprehend the climatic arrival of transformation?  Might the people imagine the impossible had occurred.  Would anyone in this country be the wiser?  Probably not.  There is reason to believe people would continue to be inspired by the trivial, the trite, the trials, and tribulations of a temptress, the taunts, all that can be seen in seconds on television, in a YouTube video, or on a social network site.  The information revolution has not altered affairs, at least not for the better.

In the last half century, the Information Age has given birth to greater conformity.  There are seemingly more options, and in actuality, fewer.  Five-hundred cable or satellite channels translates to the abandonment of an honorable agreement 'in exchange for serving the "public interest," TV stations get to use the airwaves for free.  

Currently, that creed is but a dream lost to the six major corporations, General Electric, Time Warner, The Walt Disney Company, News Corporation, CBS, and Viacom, serve as town criers.  These organizations persuade, propose, pontificate, and profess to be without bias.  Rarely do the reports attempt to be objective or reflective.  

Why should these private, for profit industries report what may be most relevant to people who trust the press to inform when sex sells.  Scandal sweetens the pot, or return on revenue.  Smut can be spun, and it is always time for silly season.

American audiences, people of every age love what bring the broadcast business lots of loot.  People are happy to absorb all the "news" transmitted by these radio and television stations.  Citizens in this country seek entertainment, forms of escapes, and enthusiastically  entrepreneurs furnish the fun.  Media moguls call what titillates profound and the people buy the bull.

For the most part, the public is generally satisfied with the press.  Most believe that the word they receive is fair and balanced or at least a reliable source of information.  In 2008, stories of Sarah sizzled.  Paris was a plus in the dull day of an average American.  Lindsay looked good and then she appeared to be less lovely.  Barrackamania was a beautiful distraction.  The now President Elect proved to be the change America could believe in.  However, as the country settles into a time of transition, some wonder what will they do for excitement.

A few murmur; might change have come and then left.  Citizens, spectators, the American audience awaits the next trend.  What will be the talk.  They tune in, turn on, and hope talk radio, television, or the technological wonder known as a computer will bring the latest American Dream.

More and more, those anxious to consume the news, check out celebrity hype.  People search for the stars.  They soak up any and all information online.  Too much technology is never enough.  To few reliable references; well, typically that goes unnoticed.

Print is still thought profound, although there is less of it to be found.  No matter the medium, the message is massaged and the words are probably, the product of a merger.  One paper is as another.  Each network is owned and operated by the very few persons who prosper from an ill-informed public.  Knowingly or not, most Americans turn to familiar forms in search.

People peruse the titles prominently known papers produce online.  They read blogger rants that reference mainstream media sources.  Indeed, well over 1 in 4 Internet users in the United States blissfully log into AOL Time-Warner accounts.  The world's largest media corporation controls one fourth of media dissemination in cyberspace.  While that may all be well and good, if the news were hard, and the audience hearty.  Neither seems to be the case.  Today, Americans view reality television, car chases, crash, or trash.  Tune it in.  In America, the people say turn it on, morning noon, and night.

In the competitive world of commercialism, in-depth, quality news coverage, has not survived.  In a 2001 study, executed by the Joan Shorenstein, of the Center on the Press, Politics, and Public Policy at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government, dramatic changes in what was once critical journalism are documented.  Did anyone notice?  Was this topic covered on the news? 

Soft news (that is, news that is typically more sensational, more personality-centered, more entertainment oriented, and more incident-based than traditional public affairs news) has increased sharply in the past two decades.  News stories that have no public policy component have increased from less than 35% of all stories in 1980 to roughly 50% today.  In the early 1980s, about 25% of news, stories had a moderate to high level of sensationalism; today, nearly 40% of news stories have this feature.??

Critical news (that is, news about the failings of leaders, institutions, and policies) has risen steadily in recent decades.  Negative coverage of presidential candidates is an example.  In 1960, about 25% of the evaluative coverage of candidates was negative in tone.  In the past three presidential elections, more than 50% of the coverage has been negative


Negative or nonsense; that may be the truer assessment.  The press pretends to enlighten; yet, for the most part it seeks to entertain.  Few realize the folly of what has become the American way.  In this country, the average Joe or Jayne consumes junk food and junk news.  

In recent months, change was the theme.  The issues of import during this recent election were those most frequently covered.  Each day Americans awoke to eat it up. . . the goodies, the gossip, and what makes the public grunt. 
10. Hillary Clinton citing Obama's Kindergarten essay titled, "I Want To Become President" 
9. Mike Huckabee's ongoing "buddy cop movie" with Chuck Norris 
8. Obama Girl 
7. Paris Hilton for President 
6. "Terrorist Fist Jab" 
5. Hillary Clinton's drinking beers and taking shots of Crown Royal 
4. Barack Obama bowling, or, "The Altoona Massacre" 
3. Wardrobe-Gate: Sarah Palin's $150K (or more) clothing caper 
2. Joe the Plumber 
1. "Lipstick On A Pig"

In 2008, the electorate considered the profundity of these topics and then selected a President, or perhaps, the mainstream media conglomerates chose for them.  Few knew more than what was delivered through airwaves, more than what was mentioned in print, more than the prominent six companies that comprise the press wanted them to know.  Hence, Americans must wonder, if change were to come, would we the people read of the transformation, or might the possibility of a true revolution never be realized, or at least, it is likely not to be seen on a computer screen, heard on a radio, or watched on television.

Reliable Sources . . . 

The effects of Junk Journalism
 
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I am an Educator, a student of life; I am an Author. On each path I learn from you and with you. Indeed. we all teach and study. Together we advance awareness and acumen. We learn, grow, and glow greater. Please peruse my prose at BeThink.org and (more...)
 

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