CNN, CBC, and other North American national media are broadcasting non-stop about weather and turkey as a lead and breaking news story long before Thanksgiving Thursday. The BBC and other non-U.S./Canadian outlets are talking about tensions with China and the US and the pissing match these countries are in regarding air space, tensions in Egypt, Syria, and stories that affect global security and economies.
Blame Anderson Cooper for the shifting of media priorities
It seems that when CNN’s Anderson Cooper did his first live broadcast from within the eye of a hurricane, media priorities for all national stations changed.
It was compelling reporting — edge of your seat stuff. The more dramatic the pictures, the more we are compelled to watch.
But news can be boring and it seems North American television media outlets have shifted from news to ratings. Therefore the most breaking news stories (even when they are not news — like camping outside a jail waiting for Paris Hilton’s release) are the ones that a) have the most dramatic images or b) have a household celebrity name involved.
National media is now local media with better pictures
There are some local stories that do offer a window on national policy and security response like another Anderson Cooper-led hurricane story in Katrina and the decades earlier stories about Jim Crow and the segregated South. Other stories, while equally devastating for the state or city, has no bearing on the rest of the country. Does Provo, Utah or Providence, Rhode Island really care about Jodi Arias? Thank the Lord above that her retrial judge has banned live TV coverage. That said, the original trial was compelling and had all the elements of a made-for-television movie — oh, wait. It, like many other sensational trial, flood, and hurricane stories: news candy. Even so, do any of these stories warrant 24/7 non-stop coverage in lieu of any other news reports?
Back in the day, the breaking news story was launching rockets and people into space. Families used to gather around the television to witness this miracle that has now been taken for granted. Look on page 16 of a newspaper and the buried “see more” links on a media website to find the launch stories today.
Editorial ultimately decides
Just ask any reporter who has a great story lined up ready to go about who decides it gets published. Then ask them how many stories they penned — really good stories that would be meaningful for the readers — that were killed by their editors to make room for the current version of breaking news.
Media priorities seem to be about ratings and compelling pictures first. A major news story only airs when it gets so big that the producers can’t ignore it. But what you are seeing today is that instead of allowing the reporters to cull the facts, in the haste to compete with Twitter and beat other outlets in the ratings, they get the story wrong — so wrong, they endanger people’s lives (see the Boston bombing and Benghazi).
Black Hawk Dumbed Down
If there were ever a poster depicting the dumbing down of national news for the sake of ratings, it is Time magazine. Every issue singles out a different focus for the U.S. market than the rest of the world.
These are decisions made by editors, not readers or viewers.