In the 1970s, prior to the new wave of TV, people had the broad choice of three channels. These channels broadcasted 30 minutes of news, Monday through Friday. These 30 minutes consisted of 12 minutes of commercials, leaving only 18 minutes for real news, which from there broke down into weather, sports, a feel good story and actual news.
With this small amount of allotted time per day, journalists relayed the actual events that had occurred — no dissection, analysis or opinion. Back then, reporters exposed corruption and fought for truth. However, nowadays, it’s more like reporters are fighting the truth.
24-hour news began in 1980 when Ted Turner founded the Cable News Network (CNN). Since the advent and rise of day-long news channels, major cable networks have fought for audiences to sell advertising, their lifeblood. Because of this, the channels have to provide “news” that will attract viewers all day long.
One way the news stations do this is through sensationalism, skewing the truth and blowing it out of proportion. For example, giving the basics on Hurricane Michael won’t make viewers involved and concerned. However, saying the storm is going to be the most devastating storm witnessed in decades draws people to watch and stay watching. “Every day the sky is falling, and then, miraculously, we wake up to see that it has not yet fallen — but that today will surely be the day,” said Culture reporter Garth Sundem.
The biggest danger to the news industry is that news has fused with entertainment. News channels didn’t exist for ratings prior to 24-hour news; their primary focus was to deliver information the people needed to know. However, the “news” is no longer news. Instead, it has become editorials of the opinion of whoever happens to be delivering the message. Viewers and readers are very aware of this fact and a public distrust of the media has grown in the past decade.
With reporters at every event, every word a public figure says is recorded forever and spread to every iPhone thanks to the Internet. Today’s news dissects every little word a politician says to produce content.
Broadcast media maintain viewership by dividing the country. To keep these viewers tuned in for long periods of time, news channels make viewers upset about different topics to, for instance, continue listening to how horrible Trump is (CNN) or how horrible the channels complaining about Trump are (Fox). If these segments simply stated the basics about an event, they wouldn’t grab ratings, because when someone hears the information once, they have no reason go back.
A Pew Research Center poll discovered that liberals outnumber conservatives in the media by about 5 to 1. When you’re of one mindset, and so is everyone around you, it’s easy to believe that what you hear is all that is important and legitimate. Beware when watching the news because the facts are not as clear cut as they should be; form your own opinions, don’t rely on what biased networks spew; diversify your news sources and consider all angles to determine where you really lie on an issue.
To find the most unbiased and straight fact-based news, you should turn to local and regional publications and news channels. This helps support ethical journalism-practicing publications and gives readers and watchers insight into what is going on in their cities and states.
As for more nationally known news sources, “NPR,” “Wall Street Journal,” “New York Times,” “BBC” and “PBS” are some of the most reliable sources to obtain news from. Despite their reputations for accurate reporting, make sure to do your own research and fact-checking.