Whatever happened to the "news"?

A particular finding by the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism was both striking and at the same time not surprising to me: the accelerated transforming of the cable news channels into talk cable.
For a democracy, especially one which holds itself out to the world as the preeminent example for it’s openness and forward thinking. But the U.S. has been plagued by a toxic, highly partisan and deeply polarized political climate. And politics is the life blood on cable.

The Findings

The report had two significant exposés on the cable front. First, coverage of live news events on CNN, Fox News Channel and MSNBC plummeted by 30% from 2007 to 2012, while interview segments — featuring all manner of pundits, commentators and bloviators — jumped by 31%
The second: The distinction between daytime and prime time on cable has blurred. While prime time has long been dominated by talk, the earlier hours featured a healthy dose of actual news. Not any more. The Pew report found that interview segments were equally prevalent in both time periods.

The most significant change came at CNN, the last, best hope for straight-down-the-middle news in cableworld. While Fox and MSNBC clearly tilt rightward and leftward, respectively, CNN had previously at least attempted to remain above the partisan fray with no obvious political orientation. And it is still the only one of the three that broadcasts more news than opinion. But the sharp cutback in reporting there is truly discouraging.
Pew found that during the five-year period it studied, the cable news pioneer had doubled the time it devoted to talk while cutting in half the airtime devoted to story packages. And it slashed the amount of news coverage during the day by more than 50%.

Change in Ownership Was Bound to have an Effect

As I said earlier, however, I was not surprised, just disheartened that it had come to pas as expected. After all, It's a lot cheaper to offer up talkers than cover the news. And in today's tough profit-driven media climate, that's clearly a tempting alternative. Especially in light of their competition.

MSNBC and FOX have been rivals for some time, with FOX and it’s willingness to seek out the much higher demographic of low-information, extreme partisans on the right, always coming out ahead in viewership.
But CNN, while owned by Ted Turner, was properly known as the place to go when real news was happening. That all changed when Time/Warner took over.

As with all the other major networks , both cable and what’s left of over-the-digital-air channels are now owned by mega-entertainment companies and are strictly profit-driven.
• ABC-Owned and operated by Disney Corp.
• NBC-Owned and operated by Comcast
• CNN-Time/Warner/AOL
• CBS-Once owned by Viacom, now bought back by CBS Corp.
• FOX-Rupert Murdoch with financial backing from the Tea Party Oil magnates the Koch Brothers

Historians will look back at the decades between 1960 and 2000 and see the shift from hospitals who cared for the sick and elderly to a profit-driven behemoth. The same will be said for the news industry. Where news once was a cost center whose expenses were the cost of providing a service to the people of the United States and a respected profession, by 2000 was an anything-goes-for-ratings-dollars medium.

Granted, MSNBC, which tilts to the liberal side of the spectrum will pound away at a particular side of a story across it’s datytime and nighttime programming, FOX will resort to just making things up, deliberately obfuscating the truth if it further the right-wing agenda, all without a hint of objective reporting.

Even as in talk radio, it’s pretty much a given that the conservatives in the red states are much more adamant in their “rage against the machine” and FOX is eager to point the fingers squarely at those dastardly liberals who seek to take all the hard-earned money from working people and give it to the “welfare queens” as Ronald Reagan portrayed the less fortunate or the “food stamp king”, President Obama, as he was constantly referred to by New Gingrich.

Let’s be clear, on the playground of politics, conservatives can call liberals, and especially President Obama, any name they choose, throw lie after nasty lie at President Obama or even his family, but mutter one minor innuendo at the Republicans and they squeal like a stuck pig. It is truly pathetic, and yet FOX conflagrates this animus at every possible opportunity.

Only WE THE PEOPLE Can Change This Erosion of News

The fact is, we need more facts and less hot air. Unless the public starts turning off these bloviating, bigoted big-mouths, they'll keep selling advertisers space to support themselves.

In another part of its report, Pew finds that politicians are gaining the upper hand over journalists when it comes to controlling the political narrative. Social media give the pols direct access to voters. And smaller news staffs often mean less scrutiny.

One of the bright spots in recent years has been the advent of more aggressive fact-checking of political ads and politicians' assertions. Too often in the past, news outlets would settle for he said/she said coverage that provided little illumination and much confusion. Now factcheck.org and PolitiFact do truth-squadding full time, while news organizations such as The Washington Post and the Associated Press have their own fact-checking operations.

Instead of offering up more political mud wrestling, cable, which covers politics for a living, should focus on helping sort out what is the truth and what is not. I would think that ABC, NBC, and CBS wouldtake the lead here, but that has simply not happened.

Instead, they largely have become nationwide local news. Their stories are tantamount to whose dog was snatched, how many shooting there were on the “bad side of town”, and some fluff pieces to fill in the 20 minutes of actual air time they produce.

And given that partisanship is such a huge element of the business models of FOX and MSNBC, it's unlikely we'll see a lot of impartial analysis from them. That's why it's so disheartening to see CNN retreating.

Don't get me wrong: I'm all for intelligent, provocative, well-thought-out commentary. There's a lot of insight to be gained from reading our best bloggers and columnists. Opinion writers with a clear point of view can be quite valuable as long as they are reality-based and write with integrity.
Sadly, that's not what talk cable is all about.

First, there's the preaching-to-the-converted model of Fox and MSNBC. Fox was launched as a conservative voice and has been a huge success, with an audience bigger than CNN's and MSNBC's combined. MSNBC, after years of flailing around in third place, gained traction by moving leftward, originally thanks to the success of former prime-time host Keith Olbermann.

You don't hear a lot of dissenting voices on partisan cable.

Fox has been slapped around for years by critics and liberals alike for its predictable slant. But the Pew report showed just how far MSNBC has followed its liberal path. Pew found that an astonishing 85% of MSNBC's content was opinion, compared with 55% on Fox and 46% on CNN.

But another type of interview programming too often found on cable is also problematic. It consists of two guests, one on the left and one on the right, who will predictably disagree about everything, often at high volume, often talking at the same time. It's not a conversation, it's not a discussion, it's combat. It's about scoring points, not enhancing understanding.

The country is bitterly split, and there is no doubt that many viewers are merely interested in having their opinions affirmed. But there is a substantial number of people out there who are persuadable, who remain open, who can be reached by factual reporting.

And, sadly, for them, cable is not a hospitable home.


News news

We don't often front-page material that is not specific to North Carolina, but this is an important look at an important issue.

Thanks for posting this.

You are welcome. My wife and

You are welcome.

My wife and I are luckily working professionals, expecting to move to North Carolina within the next couple of years to retire at the earliest possible time that we can. Although to be honest, we are also looking at re-locating oput of the country given the deterioration in the infrastructure, moral core, and economic gridlock comeing out of Washington.

I hold multiple undergraduate degrees and MBA and have been writing non-stop for two years, doing all that time will allow to bring the truth to light about how the conservative movement over the past 40 years has dismantled the ACTUAL freedom, liberties, and especially the economy. I first started researching after the real estate-driven crash of 2008 and the ensuing smear campaigns brought against President Obama.

Let me be clear: I AM NOT an Obamabot. I am not happy about many things he's done (or hasn't done), especially as to Wall Street, the dismantling of the protections put in place for our economy after the Great Depression, etc. But given the alternatives, he was as good as we could hope for (except Hillary).

I have lived in Mississippi all my life and I cannot wait to move to NC. I've had it with the hate, bigotry and low-information populace here, and I see some hope left in North Carolina and Virginia. I hope to help with nurturing that goodness, morality, and veracity, that extremists on the right seek to destroy, in my own small way.

Thanks for posting my writings.

Harvey A. Gold

and my wife and I are trying

and my wife and I are trying as hard as we can to sell our house here in NC in order to get OUT of this Reich wing state that is now 100% under Reich wing totalitarian rule. They are clearly going to run the state down the toilet at break neck speed.
We are moving to Oregon, much better weather and run by mostly liberal progressive's.
Life is just too short to be a very progressive liberal living a Reich wing regressive state.

Another pov

While the major broadcast and cable networks have significant audiences now, overall numbers are declining for viewership and the number of cable homes, particularly among younger viewers. And, with the proliferation of the web, more "hard news" is probably being looked at online rather than on television.

This shift towards more talk and less news is probably the result of both trends.

TV and radio aren't "dead" by any means, but there is a significant shift going, particularly when you look at the audience numbers and realize that, during the sweeps period, NBC was beat in the ratings by Univision or see that a minor cable channel has viewership in the tens of thousands in prime-time.

I believe I addressed the

I believe I addressed the other primary cause of deterioration in our "news" in an earlier post regarding the 24/7 information delivery vehicle known as the Internet. Yes, it delivers information, but as much of it as not is full of inaccuracies, deliberate lies and there is no mitigating "gatekeeper" to discern the knowledgeable from the made up. On my blog, I hyper-link all of my objective sources for any and all facts so that the reader can see for themselves where my information originates.

Sadly, most do not.

What happened to the news is

What happened to the news is it is being monopolized by Reichwing corporations starting back in the early 80s.
It used to be owned by about 55 different and diverse corporations/people now it is owned by FIVE Reich wing corporations.
People mistakenly call MSNBC as "left wing" when in fact they are not, it is just that all the rest of the stations are so incredibly far to the Reich that it gives MSNBC the appearance of being left wing.
On a scale of 0-100, 0 being as far left leaning as you can be and 100 being far Reich.
MSNBC is about 55, close to centrist yet still few clicks to the Right.
Fox of course is pegged at 100 and trying desperately to dig to 101 all the rest are in the 80s and 90s.

News today has little to nothing to do with "News" and Journalism does not exist.
News has become mostly Reich wing opinion based on bald faced lies and propaganda solely to dumb down the masses and protect the top 2%.