Dear News, stop trying to entertain me.

No, really. Stop it.

I don’t need flashy graphics, scary music and breathless reporters. I don’t need to “Find out after the commercial break!!”

I don’t want you to be the first with your breaking news and speculations.

I *really* don’t want you to interview heartbroken relatives, shell-shocked neighbors and terrified kids.

Ever.

You don’t need to make this a human interest story. You don’t need to create false suspense.

It is a human interest story already. Anyone with a heart and a mind is already interested.

You don’t need to relate it to local people. What is local in the age of the internet? When we can watch our friends tweeting from lockdown? When we can read their fear in Facebook updates and see through their eyes on Instagram?

Your false suspense. Your overly-produced segments featuring concerned blonde ladies in news rooms in front of footage of carnage. Your suspenseful music and pre-commercial teasers. Your “shocking breakthroughs” and “exclusive information (which may or may not be correct)”.

You take our human concern and pervert it. You make our desire to know what’s going on and turn us into peeping toms. You take the human interests and make them into reality tv performers.

Once again, news, you have failed me. As you always do. This is nothing new to me and nothing surprising. You lost me 7 years ago, when a person I cared about was killed in a car wreck. I was spared having to see news reports of the wreck that directly affected me. I was in another city. And that was the best thing about the whole horrible situation. I did not have to see the scene that killed my loved one. I did not have to watch it over and over again, in that weirdly repetitive  and unsensational sensationalism that the news media so delights in. I was not there. I didn’t have to have a microphone in my face, being asked questions by a reporter who doesn’t care about any more than getting something with which they can lead the night’s segment.

Now, when I see these pieces, all I can do is imagine myself there. Imagine the pain of having to deal with my own pain on national tv. The pain of having to see images of the death of my loved one repeated ad infinitum on the local news.

Images of crushed metal or bodies with breathy, perfectly-modulated voices talking over them, theme songs and graphics is not news. It’s reality tv. My discomfort is not just discomfort with the images themselves, though there is a lot there, but discomfort for what viewing those images makes *me*. You have taken my compassion for the people involved and turned it into something that makes me horrified. The term “disaster porn” has been bandied about this past week, in light of the desperate attempts of networks like CNN to grab eyes, on even the slightest pretext of “knowledge”. But for me, it’s a more direct comparison.

Watching the news feels like watching porn. Not even good porn. The major network news shows have roughly the same moral standing as the guys who produce Girls Gone Wild. You take people who are vulnerable. Emotional. Not able to consent, or even gracefully say no. You hound them. You push microphones into their faces and continue to do so until you get the response you want. You might not be asking drunk young ladies to take their shirts off, but you are doing the emotional equivalent. How many times have you seen some pain-ravaged person say something that you know they will regret? These people become laughing stocks in the dark corners of the internet, and often what people consider the bring corners as well. But at the end of the day, they’re someone who was put on the spot when they were vulnerable. And the words that come out of their mouths should no more be put on camera and broadcast worldwide than should the actions of a co-ed on Spring Break.

Until you figure this out, news. I’m going to continue to continue to get my news from brilliant reporters like Seth Mnookin and Taylor Dobbs. I’m going to continue turning to the brilliant group of journalists, both fledgeling and veteran, both professional and amateur, whom I follow on twitter. I will continue to get my morning news from NPR and my evening news from BBC world. I will not be watching your overly-produced reality porn. I will not be giving your sponsors eyes. I will not be falling prey to the messages you send about who are the *correct* people to be afraid of. I will not be absorbing your biases and your messages of fear and hatred. I will not buy into your manufactroversies, and I will not hound innocent young men because they fit the profile you want me to suspect.

I am an avid news consumer. I am an information junkie. I *should* be your target audience. I should be glued to your shows each evening. I should be impatiently refreshing your websites. But I’m not. And that’s your fault. Because I don’t like the kind of consumer you make me. I don’t want to be a voyeur any more. I want to be an conscientious consumer, even of my news media. You don’t give me that option. So now you don’t get the option of informing me any more.

You have failed,

-Emily

 

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13 thoughts on “Dear News, stop trying to entertain me.

  1. Beautifully put. I think that speculative reporting and the 24-hour news cycle are both a scourge on our society, and this week has shown me that I am right in spades. The race to have everything first, to beat the other news team, to be more sensational than the next guy… that’s not what journalism should be about. It should be about getting the facts straight and reporting them clearly for a general populace to understand. That’s what news broadcasts are supposed to be for. But instead we have flashy holograms and scary theme music and news anchors who are chosen as much for their looks as for their ability to speak clearly. It’s sad, really. And it’s frustrating. But those of us who really have an eye for information and who want to keep up with the news will get it where we can. It’s just that nowadays, we have to look a little harder to find it, because the places we should be getting it easy-peasy have turned into some weird circus of ignorami, battling for who can be the fastest and the flashiest, but disseminating nothing worth listening to or looking at.

  2. I think there are two reasons why radio and TV news reporting is generally so useless. First, TV has to put on a 24-news shows even when nothing is new. This must torture the onscreen presenters as much as it does the rest of us. Second, most TV programming is funded by advertising. That explains everything the first reasond doesn’t.

  3. You lost me when you faked combat footage in Vietnam, when there was real fighting going on. Lack of ethics and even balls. Oh, do we need to talk about Heraldo? No? OK, is a realityish show.

  4. Reminds me of the ’80s song by Eddie Money, “Dirty Laundry” …The bubble-headed bleach blonde comes on at 5…She can tell you ’bout the plane crash with a gleam in her eye…

    • Not really a fan of either one, but…
      that would be one of the Eagles- Don Henley with the 80′s song ‘Dirty Laundry’.
      Great article Emily.

  5. This is what happens when The News morphs into Big Bidnez under the constant pressure of Greed. And, as go the news sources, so goes the Republic. It was fun while it lasted though.

  6. I hope you watched the whole, uncut footage of the grandmotherly lady (after the OK tornados) whose dog was found during the interview. “do you have any idea what happened here” and the lady gives her the look such a question deserves and answers, “I know exactly what happened.”
    I had a mad grin going even before the dog showed up! XD

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