Thursday, February 25, 2021


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Television news, due primarily to its obsession with crime and violence, definitely has a negative impact upon our society. TV news is basically an oxymoron; giving us the skin of the truth stuffed with a lie. A news program should be focused on the facts, with perhaps some objective analysis. However, for business purposes, TV news broadcasts use dramatic, usually violent stories and images to capture and maintain an audience, under the pretense of keeping it informed. What we see and hear on the news affects us both consciously and subconsciously, and sends us about our lives unnecessarily fearing the remote dangers that we see excessively portrayed on the evening news. This fact is especially true for children, who are defenseless against this onslaught of violence being brought into our very living rooms in the guise of informative reporting. One can argue that all news shows are in fact re-creations", such as the case with The Wolf Blitzer Show which aired February rd at 1 o'clock on CNN. The so called "re-presentation comes to you in two forms language and pictures. The question then arises what do viewers need to know to properly defend themselves against the fast paced medium that is TV news.

Why is it that bad news is the only news? Is that all the public finds interest in? JonBenet Ramsey is a perfect example; a beautiful little girl with so much going for her, yet not deemed worthy of any media attention until her tragic murder made her a household name. To see the latest horror / thriller, theres no need to go to your local theater; its on television at 10 PM. Yet the news isnt completely at fault; the people (like myself) who complain that these stories are plethoric are the very people who tune in to watch them every evening.

"Fire gives visual form to the idea of consumption, disappearance, death- the thing that is burned is actually taken away by the fire. It is at this very basic level that fire makes a good subject for television news."(Postman, p.8) Recently in a Rhode Island nightclub, a fire caused by pyrotechnics engulfed the club killing at least 0 people and injuring 100's more. This image of change easily makes its way onto TV news. The Wolf Blitzer Show focused on the hear today gone tomorrow aspect of fire. Wolf Blitzer, the anchor of the show, steered clear from being a "talking heads" or a person who simply appears in front of the camera and speaks. "When talking heads appear on television there is nothing to record or document, no change in process."(Postman,p.54)

The long-standing news producer motto, if it bleeds, it leads, is alive and well, and the network broadcasts are no better than the locals are. The world news shows are virtually indistinguishable from local news, both leading with blood and guts. Clearly, advertising revenue and the constant pressure to keep the viewers tuned to the station are the driving forces behind the dumping down of TV news. News producers must figure that if they can scare the wits out of people, the people will be more inclined to watch the disproportionate prominence of gore and violence on daily TV news broadcasts. In a way, we experience vicariously the very things we dread. These stories are a highly charged, visceral experience for viewers, and when one of them breaks, there isnt a TV station thats not covering it or a person that isnt talking about it. Journalistically, violent crime pays; its cheap to report and it grabs attention.

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In fact, crime coverage seems to dominate the available news time. Politics, education, the environment and business average just seconds of attention (excluding, of course, now with the situation in Iraq). This overabundance of crime and violence on TV news inflates the publics fears for personal safety. It is clear that images have immense power to influence behavior, for good or ill. People, for the most part, believe that TV news is an accurate reflection of reality. They become frightened of the cities they live in, and fear that criminals will harm them or their loved ones. On the Wolf Blizter show the situation in Iraq is known as "Showdown Iraq" which creates the illusion to keeping the public informed. Important news events such as the situation in Iraq are lost by TV's visual reportage. This concern seems to be driven more by media coverage than by ones personal experiences. The more you watch TV, the more fearful you become especially in a post -11 New York. Also, and perhaps more importantly, I think it possible for one to witness so many news reports of senseless acts of violence, brutal murders, and demented killers that he or she becomes desensitized to the point of no longer feeling compassion for the victims or their families. For these reasons, it is imperative that viewers come to their screens with a mind of their own. Not necessarily with preconceived perceptions and prejudices, but rather with a critical awareness that will help determine how they see and interpret things.

Television news is dangerous to our childrens emotional and psychological health. Graphic coverage of wars, bombings, murders and natural disasters can quite possibly lead to nightmares, depression and other lasting reactions. As adults, we can make concrete choices about what we watch and where we get our information. Our children cant; they are innocent and more impressionable. We have the ability to tell the difference between reality and deception; our children dont. The world presented to them on TV is usually a lot scarier than the world they actually live in. Crime statistics go down, yet coverage of crime on TV news increases.

Television news seems compelled to inform its viewers of all of the latest crimes, tragedies, and disasters, as though these are the only stories worth presenting. But is this really news, and is it a responsible thing for the networks to be doing, or is it a blatant abuse of power? The journalistic powers that be could make better use of their resources by at least reporting an imminent threat, to which perhaps the viewers could react (and possibly help deter), rather than to simply show us the devastation that has already occurred, solely for its entertainment value. It is a spiritual law that whatever is focused upon increases; we sow what we reap. Hence, violence begets violence; fear begets fear; and the dismal world depicted on the evening news becomes a self-fulfilling one.

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