If you have cable television, chances are you’re well aware of your choices of news coverage – everything from the ultra conservative Fox News to its adversary, MSNBC, and everything in between.
Sure it’s nice to have those opposing viewpoints available, but I’m a bit bothered by the competing 24-hour cable news cycle. I always hear how our country has changed drastically over the years – that it’s split more now than ever. But I’ll bet the family farm that this constant bombardment of diverging 24-hour news coverage (at least, what the general public refers to as “news”) is partly to blame for our polarization.
Changing times and technology have refined the way we get information; that’s a simple enough theory. We get it faster and easier than ever before. If a plane crashes in Europe, I know within seconds of it happening. Likewise, Europe can keep up to the minute tabs on baby names picked out by Kim and Kanye (the most pressing issue of our day).
But with this quick spread of information, I can’t think of a 24-hour news network that’s not guilty of jumping the gun when it comes to coverage. Speed trumps accuracy and reliability in the cable news realm, which we all saw the consequences of in the Newtown tragedy.
Nothing is off limits when it comest to early predictions either. Most recently, those predictions have centered on the 2016 presidential elections – in particular, speculation of whether or not now former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will vie for a Presidential nomination in 2016.
Predictions for 2016. That’s a little premature, right? I don’t know what I’ll eat for dinner, let alone what’s going to happen four years from now. Yet the debate of “will she or won’t she” keeps swirling in the toilet bowl that is the world of 24-hour cable news. Our current president is only days into a second term. It’s really a shame that these news outlets are reporting so extensively on the “could be” of the 2016 elections before all the confetti of last week’s Inaugural Parade is even cleaned off the streets of D.C. Put simply, there’s just no merit in glorifying the next presidential election when dust hasn’t quite settled from the knock-down, drag-out slug fest that was the 2012 campaign.
So why do these networks do it? Why do major cable news networks like CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, et al, make such broad predictions (which, in many instances, they refer to as “breaking news”), and follow news stories for hours, even days on end before vague information assimilates into actual facts? More troubling, why do people cling to every word of a talking head as if it were the true spoken word of God?
Personally, I lost all respect for these news networks long ago (as if you hadn’t guessed already). People like to forget that each of those networks is, first and foremost, a business and the product they sell is news. Their primary objective is to gain viewers and the best way to do it is through the “you heard it here first” approach.
It’s become more and more difficult to decipher concrete facts from the misconstrued, biased and ... well ... simply made up information of the 24-hour cable news cycle. Cable news anchors are slick. They’re skilled at walking the fine line between fact and opinion, and sometimes it can be hard to tell which is which. Then again, you don’t have to be a psychiatrist to know people like to be with those who are like-minded. People are going to believe what they want to believe, evidence or not, and it’s damn near impossible to change their minds (you need not look further than ‘30 Seconds’ to see that).
I guess when it comes to news, all I want is what I need to hear, nothing more. It doesn’t take a day of watching television to get that.