When I was young, I would spend my summers with my grandfather on his farm. Every night, we had a ritual of watching the ten o’clock news (followed by Quincy with Jack Klugman).
As I got older, I learned to appreciate the news. It was delivered by well-dressed men and women with spot-on hair, concerned expressions, and a cadence in their voices that carried authority and understanding. When commercials for the news came on, they would say things like:
A difference you can see
A friend you can turn to
Coverage you can count on
Stories that count from people who care
Then I went to work in media and discovered it was all total bull$#!+.
The news doesn’t make a positive difference, news outlets are not your friend, you can NOT count on objective reporting, and they do not care about you any more than McDonald’s cares about the last dope they sold a box of mystery meat nuggets to.
There is one fact about news that everyone knows but chooses to forget. It’s glaringly obvious but we push it aside because we want to believe that reporters have our best interest at heart.
News reporting is a business and its number one priority is to make money.
The news is not a charity. Not even NPR. It is not a benevolent institution existing to dispense truth to an otherwise ignorant people, blessing the masses with information they need to know to survive, take action, or otherwise be generally more interesting.
At best, it’s entertainment. At worst, it’s misinformation designed to create a narrative to sway readers, listeners, and viewers toward the station owner’s bias, even if it means turning family and friends against each other.
In the business of broadcasting, eyeballs equals money. There’s no better way to do that than to create drama, divide people, and get some hashtags trending. It’s about stirring up emotion, even if it means creating panic and anxiety in people who are helpless to do anything about the trauma playing out in front of them.
Good news travels fast but bad news travels faster.
Have you heard about the car that is being developed to run off of solar power? Did you know that the billionaire co-founder of Home Depot is giving away 80% of his wealth to charity? How about that there is a greater percentage of people in our country going to church than in a very long time?
Of course you haven’t heard about these things! That kind of news doesn’t get clicks. You’re not going to get the comments, likes, and shares on your Facebook post by talking about these things.
Remember when the Notre Dame Cathedral caught fire? Why haven’t we heard about restoration efforts? What about ISIS? Is that still a thing? North Korea was testing short-range missiles. Is the threat over?
Apparently, nobody cares. Those issues aren’t “hot” anymore. They weren’t generating enough ad revenue so they’re no longer important.
Currently, the news is ablaze with stories about the conditions at the U.S. and Mexico border. This is an issue that is over 10 years old. It’s terrible and there are thousands of people that need help but why is it so popular now?? Why, all of a sudden, are we being force-fed endless articles, videos, and radio pieces on this topic?
Hint: it stirs drama and provokes feelings outrage. It pits people against each other. It generates ad revenue. And as soon as the story has served its purposes for those who share it, it will disappear behind the next hot-button issue that can be spun to grow the business.
Just in case, let me be clear. I am not singling out any particular media bend. I see this in liberal media, conservative media, christian media, public media, and all media that benefits from more readers, viewers, or listeners (which is pretty much all of them).
So, what’s the takeaway? Before you get all lathered up about an issue or topic, before you share, comment, or lose your peace, remember that doing so is exactly what news producers want you to do. You are advertising for them!
Like soap opera producers, they want to keep you addicted to their programming (there’s a reason why it’s called “programming” by the way). They’ve got your attention and they will do whatever it takes to keep it. Their first priority is to make money. They are a business, and not a benevolent distributor of objective information.
I’m not suggesting ignorance but let that fact filter every headline you read and every story you hear.
The news is Bull$#!+.