Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Evening News

So for the first time in years I watched the simpsons and family guy on fox after a long day of watching football (G-MEN!) and doing a lot of eating and lounging. For some reason I didn't jump up to turn the tv off before "Fox News" came on at 10. Now, whenever I watch the local news with another human being someone eventually says, "man, don't they have anything POSITIVE to tell us?"

This is a quick recap of the news stories that were presented in the first 15 minutes of Fox News at 10.

-One guy commiting suicide by jumping head first from a third story building
-A woman caught in cross fire and being shot in the eye in Irvington, NJ on her way home from church
-A man breaking a bottle and stabbing another man in Brooklyn
-A shooting supposedly occurring during a drug deal
-A biker died while crossing the brooklyn bridge after he was forced off the upper level of the bridge and fell to the lower level
-MTA trains held up at penn station for 2 hours today
-Broadway stage hands on strike
-A fire that damaged a church, BUT the congregation and church leaders are positive it will be rebuilt soon!!!
-Muggings are on the rise in the city and which neighborhoods in the city you are most likely to get mugged in
-New "killer cold" adenovirus takes 10 lives including a female military officer
-A teenage girl viciously attacked by another girl in an amateur video from Texas

My dad finally grabbed the remote and muttered "enough of this crap" and changed the channel. Thanks.

There are terrible things that happen in the world everyday but there are incredible, beautiful things as well. The extent to which the media has the power to influence thinking and the perspectives of its audience is really frightening. When a news channel or program consistently broadcasts nothing but overwhelmingly negative stories, its viewers might begin to believe in this picture that they are being force fed. The Fox News corporation has been criticized for presenting a strongly biased point of view and promoting a conservative, right-wing agenda that is far from its "Fair and Balanced" motto.

I came away from watching these 15 minutes considering the fact that the world is a cold, dangerous place where anyone could get shot or stabbed or mugged at anytime. What would be the benefit of emphasizing these types of stories? To scare viewers? To warn them? Or maybe there just aren't enough 'good' stories out there that are interesting? In a perfect world, the media would be obligated to simply present the facts with as little editorializing as possible. People should be allowed to come to their own conclusions without being influenced by a hidden (or partially hidden) agenda.

It is important for any news media outlet to inform its audience of the most important issues that occur. But who should be allowed to decide what should be shown or not shown? How would a purely objective news outlet work?

I just hope that this news broadcast is not an accurate portrayal of the only local news stories in the world around me. I'd like to think that there is still some good in the world, or in the greater NYC area.


Andy McKenzie said...

unfortunately, news stations have these stories because that's what people will watch. they won't change the channel if they think that their own safety could be at safe (hence the "which neighborhoods are least safe" graphic, which I'm sure came right after an ad, because people aren't going to turn away from that)

also, every time that the crime statistics come out, news stations consistently fudge the statistics in order to show that crime is increasing. that shit sells, yadadifeel?

Jerald Isseks said...

I hate the news. For years I sat in another room waiting for ABC News with Peter Jennings to end so I could turn on channel 7 and watch Jeopardy. My parents would tell me I should watch the news, that I was becoming ignorant to the goings-on of our society, but really I just didn't feel like hearing about suicides, homocides, insecticides, etc.

In "Men in Black," Tommy Lee Jones states that the only worthwhile news to look at is in the tabloids. This is the other side of the spectrum, I guess; the big broadcasting stations dish out terror, while the tabloids elect to inform us about how much weight certain burnt-out celebrities have gained. Equally pathetic.

My dad, at breakfast each morning, would open the newspaper and immediately complain that the Times Herald Record (the local newspaper of the Catskills and western mid-Hudson Valley) deliberately played down the world news in favor of "more important" local news, like the infidelity of an "area man" or the financial losses of another "area man." "I found the world news!" he would suddenly proclaim, pointing to a narrow alcove on page 45 or so, where there would be a column about some unimportant foreign nation and their first free election in three decades. Furthermore, in the sports section we would have to flip through six pages of analysis of the most recent Army football loss before coming to anything about any other sport or any other time. I once wrote the Record an e-mail about how much I hated the Army sports program simply because it had infested my mornings before school for as long as I could read.

But all hope is not lost, especially nowadays, thanks to the internet. Go to the New York Times online and you can pick which articles you want to see and which you refuse to give even a passing glance. Personally I like to scroll about half-a-page down to where they list the "top ten most e-mailed articles," most of which are about science, health, world travel and political opinion. Thus when I want the news I open up my computer; I only dare open the delivered newspaper if feel like doing the crossword.