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such a nasty woman | by maryann johanson

“just give up, stop complaining, accept idiocy as inevitable”

MSNBC Boston marathon bombing

That seems to be what Tim Goodman at The Hollywood Reporter is saying:

BREAKING: Criticism of Boston Bombing Coverage Won’t Change Anything (Opinion)

CNN or MSNBC or Fox News doesn’t give a damn at this moment how viciously “The Daily Show” is going to tear them apart.

Television news, particularly 24-hour cable coverage, is essentially a master class in how to do journalism poorly. And so media critics — and, yes, hordes of people who are mortified by what they see on their television screens — write columns or take to social media and lambaste the offending parties. From CNN to Fox News, nobody — from top management to reporters on the street and anchors telling them what a great job they’ve been doing — is immune.

But here’s the problem: There is never any change. There are no fixes. You might have thought CNN and others were more cautious after recent egregious errors coming out of the Boston reporting, but they weren’t, really. Because the job of a 24-hour cable news channel is to have people constantly talking about the news, whether the story has moved an inch or not. It can’t afford caution. Saying “we have no information” just makes people change the channel. Ratings plummet. People get fired.

And so what we’ve witnessed in the last 48 hours and continue to witness as the story unfolds, is the same rush to judgment, the same passing on of “news” that turns out to be untrue or non-existent. Only now it’s wrapped in that clever news-speak that goes a little something like this: “We’re hearing that there could be as many as five bombs and an entire cell of people involved, but again, we can’t confirm this and will err on the side of caution until we can.”

Clap. Clap. Clap. Well played.

So this is not a media criticism column. It’s a column saying give up — the war is over. You can’t win — and by you I mean media critics. None of the news organizations are listening. And the only people really concerned with your legitimate complaints are those people long since sickened by mainstream American news organizations who now prefer the BBC or online sites or whatnot.

There’s a lot more, and it’s only increasingly dispiriting.

Goodman wants to be defeatist? Fine. I say, Fuck that shit. It’s bullshit that “there is never any change.” Cable news didn’t start out this awful, and it’s not inevitable that it be this way. But it certainly will remain this way if those of us who see the problems with it shut up and let it get away with its idiocy.

Jesus. I can’t believe this passes for media criticism.

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  • teenygozer

    Recently I heard that Al-Jazeera had purchased All Gore’s “Current” news channel. Al-Jazeera is a top-level, serious news channel, I sometimes watch it online. I’m hoping they’ll show the others how it’s supposed to be done.

    (Cue the crazies who are pissed off because “the terrorists” own a news channel. What would they say if they knew a Saudi prince owned a huge chunk of the Fox News Channel?)

  • judes

    “Seems to be what he is saying”? This is exactly what he is saying and I can understand his despair! It is the bottom-line that is running everything – not truth not integrity not what is good or right or helpful. The sooner we start naming and accepting this the sooner we can start re-building things under another model that does not worship at the feet of whatever provides the most profit to whoever or whatever represents the status quo.

  • amanohyo

    I admittedly watch television very rarely, but I’ve been consistently impressed with the maturity, restraint, and amount of context contained in most of Al-Jazeera’s coverage. What a strange world we live in – I would never have imagined that a news outlet targeted primarily at Muslims would be far more reasonable and evenhanded than the flagship news station of the land of the free and the home of the brave.

    The most hilarious channel is that Russian news station (RT I believe it’s called). Every single story and guest is critical of the US – the anti-American bias is so extreme that it borders on satire. It is fun to watch broadcasts from other countries occasionally. Lately, CNN is just as depressing as FOX and not nearly as entertaining. My problem with modern news and most modern educational programs in general is a lack of context. The internet and its spoils have ruined me.

  • judes

    I would never have imagined that a news outlet targeted primarily at Muslims would be far more reasonable and evenhanded than the flagship news station of the land of the free and the home of the brave.

    Really? Doesn’t surprise me in the least.

  • RogerBW

    The only thing CNN or Fox cares about is the money. As long as they’re getting subscription shares and ad revenue, they’ll keep doing what they’re doing. So that’s the place to hit them. Complain to the companies that advertise on them about the material surrounding their adverts. Don’t subscribe to a TV package that includes them, and tell your TV provider why you’re stopping.

  • In “They Live” you wear the glasses, you see the subliminal messages telling you to obey, submit and consume.

    In reality…. you don’t need the glasses as all.

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