Have you ever wondered what other, serious news the news media was missing when they were in a frenzy about Beyoncé lip-synching the national anthem or a college football player’s non-existent girlfriend? I have. I’ve also wondered how the news media answers this question: what is news? Or what is worthy of the population’s attention on television, radio and the internet?
We live in a time in America when the news cycle is 24/7. The news media must fill that time with reports of news. How each news outlet defines news determines what they report. Entertainment and pop culture events often become news when nothing else is going on. Television shows focused only on entertainment and pop culture news have also proliferated. Now it’s “news” that the line between entertainment and news has blurred, especially on television.
An entire generation of Americans live today without knowing or experiencing a world in which computers exist only at the Department of Defense and in science fiction, no one has ever imagined a cell phone (except on Star Trek, the original series), and morning news programs are just getting started. Television news commanded power over the air waves fifty years ago. For example, my parents established a family routine every day except Sunday: sit-down dinner together at 6 p.m. and the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite at 6:30 p.m. That hour was sacred, serious and important. We paid attention to the news that Cronkite reported.
Now we have so much news and information coming at us from the moment we wake in the morning until we fall into bed at night that everyone, even the news outlets, have become overloaded. What do we pay attention to? What's important? News editors need to edit more. I often think as I’m watching the evening television news and some entertainment story on it that somewhere in the world something important has happened and the news reporters have completely missed it because they focused instead on an entertaining story for ratings.
American news outlets focus on America too much. We live in a world with 140+ other countries. What’s going on elsewhere? How does it affect the people there (not only Americans)? What is the historical context of the news? The Fourth Estate has shirked woefully in recent years on informing and educating the public, digging for all the angles, and keeping an objective distance from the story. So news of armed strife in Kashmir does not receive the coverage that a college football player’s love life does.
News outlets want our attention 24/7. They work hard to keep us interested in what they choose to report. But I say, we don’t need a 24/7 news cycle. I don’t need to hear the same news story for three consecutive days from ten different places. So you know what? I turn it off. I turn off the television, the internet and the radio. We, the audience, have the ultimate control over what we see and hear. So turn it off. Choose what's important to you.