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Sunday, November 18, 2018

Opinion

Notable news replaced by tweeting television personalities


TV News Political Cartoon

Leah Nash/The Cougar

The greedheads of media have won again. They have whisked away our reliable, honest television news and replaced it with a pustule of bias and incompetence.

In 1962, Walter Cronkite began a 19-year career as the anchorman for the CBS Evening News. Cronkite would go on to cover historical events such as the assassination of President John F. Kennedy; he was deemed the “most trusted man in America,” because he delivered the news hard and straight.

These days, TV news instead inspires reactions of paranoia and contempt. Economics freshman Alex Lopez said she believes that TV news stations often frame stories to fit their peg.

“I don’t like really watching TV news that much,” Lopez said. “I feel like they’re way too biased, I mean, especially Fox and those big networks.”

The delivery of news via television is the most accessible medium of journalism there is. This accessibility comes with a large reservoir of resources that is wasted by biased news networks that care more about ratings than the audience.

On Oct. 27, CNN reported on Ebola nurse Kaci Hickox and her quarantine in New Jersey. This story was repeated multiple times over the course of an hour by the CNN network, despite the lack of any new developments.

The stagnancy in TV news is caused by a lack of effort and results in the disenfranchisement of millions of Americans.

Laziness is not a lone disease. Bias and glamour go hand in hand in further devolving the state of the TV News machine.

Television personalities like Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly and Rachel Maddow gain celebrity status. Yet this is all occurring on major news networks, where the straight journalists sound like they are just as infected with opinion as the talking heads.

Shows like CNN’s Crossfire operate around the sole purpose of pitting opposing viewpoints against each other, sitting back and watching the sparks fly. Meanwhile, the various hosts of TV news are slaves to the hyperbolic world of social media; Twitter is grossly misused such that it distracts from the events of the day.

“Saw Brad Pitt’s new movie #Fury this wk WOW! Gritty & real An eye opener abt tank warfare #Greatestgeneration so brave .. so fearless. THK U!” said Ashleigh Banfield, co-anchor of CNN’s morning show Early Start, on Twitter (@CNNAshleigh).

On MSNBC’s news show “Andrea Mitchell Reports,” journalist Chuck Todd reported on Oct. 28 from the passenger seat of a moving vehicle.

“Andrea, one other thing, I get a lot of questions on Twitter about whether I’m wearing  a seatbelt. I’m always wearing a seatbelt when I’m on here, I want people to see it,” Todd said, tugging dramatically at his seatbelt. “So I want to reassure folks, you know how social media gets, I’ve been wearing a seatbelt the whole time.”

People watch the show for the news, so they may be better, well-informed citizens — not to have a national conversation about whether or not Todd is wearing a seatbelt.

Though there is nothing is wrong with gaining acclaim for good work, a hankering for a recognizable, national personality over honest, hard news makes one pause. Unfortunately, celebrities are the royalty of America; therefore, egos must be hard to contain when the whole nation and world looks at them with stars in their eyes.

All of this to say that the general attitude coming from CNN and most other TV news networks is a discourtesy to the viewer. This sour kind of buffoonery comes down to a slavish devotion to ratings.

These mean-tempered hacks somehow imagine that they can treat their audience like idiots, with repeated stories and big smiles.

Don Lemon is the host of CNN Tonight. On Oct. 27, Lemon had Arsalan Iftikhar on the show to discuss radical islamists. Iftikhar is an international human rights lawyer, the founder of website TheMuslimGuy and a senior editor at The Islamic Monthly.

Lemon and Iftikhar talked about “radical” Islams and self-radicalization; however, this was not a conversation of balance and poise. Lemon, despite being a journalist, continually cut Iftikhar off, bringing the conversation back to the first question.

“But Arsalan … you don’t think that ‘radical’ Islamists are an issue right now?”

Lemon should have adapted to the conversation, but instead, his lack of longevity displayed his own bias.

Lemon seemed to simply want a good sound bite. A prominent Muslim justifying the claims that radicalism in Islam is more inherent and more violent in the current atmosphere would validate many close-minded hypothesis across the nation.

Lemon did not bring Iftikhar on for his expertise. Lemon had an opinion from the get-go — that violence and radicalism are currently inherent in Islam — and he wanted to get someone relevant and reliable to agree with this view.

“I’m a journalist, so I understand, if it bleeds it leads,” Iftikhar said. “We have to add some nuance to a lot of these meta-narratives that are going on, because we don’t want any demographic group … to have any sort of collective guilt placed on it by the actions of a few.”

Lemon cut Iftikhar off and ended his involvement on the show at this point with a short “thank you.” The peak of the conversation had been reached without Lemon achieving his goal, but Lemon wouldn’t be able to prod anymore without blatantly jeopardizing his ramshackle credibility.

When Lyndon B. Johnson died in 1973, Cronkite received this information via phone while on-air discussing U.S.-Vietnam relations. Cronkite let dead air reign for a few seconds to professionally gather the facts before turning his focus back to his viewers.

“I’m talking to Tom Johnston, the press secretary for Lyndon Johnson, who has reported that the 36th President of the United States died this afternoon,” Cronkite said.

An odd occurrence from the present perspective. Nowadays, it seems like the only reason we have television news is to create more noise.

Opinion columnist Henry Sturm is a print journalism junior and may be reached at [email protected]

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