As a society, we have been sucked into the habit of watching more and more news. The increased number of news broadcasts and the advent of 24-hour news channels like CNN has brought this about.
Why is there more news broadcasts than ever before? There are more because there is now instant access to global news and because these programs are extremely profitable. They are moneymakers due to the low cost of talent and production in comparison to a typical television show. Satellites and the Internet have enabled instant access and exchange of information, images, and video from around the world.
There is no doubt about the important and valuable role that the press plays in a free democratic society. The problem is that the press has gone beyond just reporting the news to becoming entertainment, albeit a frequently unhealthy representation of it. They create drama with the carefully crafted headlines, words, and tone they use.
The broadcasters of the news are not entirely to blame. They give the public what it asks for. The more sensational and tragic the story is the bigger the viewing audience. I can’t help but think that watching the tragedies of others is some sort of unhealthy escapism.
I’ve heard people say that they want to stay informed. Does staying informed require that we watch the same story over and over again with little bits added daily for weeks, sometimes months, and even years?
What impact do you suppose it has on a person’s psyche, mood, and health to watch and hear stories several times a day about murders, rapes, robberies, burglaries, divorces, suicides, bombings, wars, fires, earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, and on and on? Every story that you watch on the news is being recorded in its entirety in your subconscious mind. No doubt about it. The accumulative effect cannot be good.
Local news seems to be particularly bad if you live in a large city. Most of it centers on the tragedies of the day, whereas network morning and evening news programs seem to mix in a few upbeat stories from time to time.
What kind of effect do you think the news has on a person’s outlook after they look at pictures and hear stories about all the bad things that are happening in their neighborhood, country, and the world? How do you feel after watching the news? Do you feel energized, inspired, and optimistic? Or do you feel lethargic, depressed, and pessimistic?
The utterly amazing thing about news programs is how much of it is not news but rather predictions and opinions by the news organization and more frequently by so-called experts. These predictions and opinions often come before, after, and sometimes during an important newsworthy event like a speech by the President.
These predictions and opinions are purposely added to create drama, seduce viewers, and extend the broadcast life of a story. Next time you watch a news program notice how many times the anchors use words, phrases, or questions like these: “May” “Might” “Could” “Let’s get her thoughts on this.” “What do you think he will say?” “What do you think she was trying to say?” “What do you think he will do?”
Who cares what other people think the President will say before he’s delivered his speech, or what they think he was trying to say after he’s given it. It’s really quite ridiculous if you think about it. We are smart enough to come to our own conclusions.
The most disturbing behavior by the press is how they try, convict, and punish people through their broadcasts and sting operations. Even if a person is found to be completely innocent later on, the damage caused by the news broadcasts can be so severe that an individual may never be able to repair his or her reputation. I acknowledge the fact that many news organizations do admirable and beneficial things through their investigations and coverage. The problem is that many of them often go beyond the boundaries of news reporting ethics.
I heard somewhere that even though the murder rate was down significantly one particular year, news reports about them actually increased more than the amount of decline. This clearly shows how news reporting works.
Throughout our lives, we have been exposed to so many emotionally charged stories that any good news is boring to us. We’ve come to expect more and more sensationalism to feed our news habit. Why aren’t there news programs that present only good news? There aren’t any because we have become addicted to the rush of tragic news.
Now that news channels have the ability to split up the screen, we can actually get several news stories at the same time by looking at the scrolling text along the bottom and sometimes at the top as well. The split screens also enable broadcasters to insert enticing and highlighted words like “Alert,” “Breaking News,” and “Developing Story.” I wonder what they’ll come up with next to entice us to watch their programs.
Considering how much of the news is bad and how much of it is predictions, opinions, and personal character assassinations why waste your time on it? Nothing about it is uplifting, educational, or empowering. And it certainly does not enhance your mood, outlook, or mental database.
Because local news is so heavily concentrated with depressing stories, I never watch it. Although there are some stories of value presented by the network world news broadcasts, I never watch them either. The only news programs that I watch, but only for the first 1-4 minutes, are the network morning news shows like CBS This Morning, Today, or Good Morning America. The only news program that I watch almost completely is CBS News’ Sunday Morning. Nearly all the stories are upbeat and only a tiny portion of the program is devoted to the news.
Update: I’m down to watching morning news “shows” for about 30-90 seconds — at the beginning. At this point after being free of this negative habit for some time, that’s all it takes for me to see its sensationalism, repetitiveness, and absurdity and start feeling depressed, anxious, and annoyed.
Why expose yourself to information and images that are almost always bad? Imagine what affect watching, listening, and reading the news for hours every day has on your mind, body, and outlook? Refuse to be sucked into the news machine. Put this time to better use. Try watching PBS, educational documentaries, or inspiring videos instead. Then see how much better you feel and how much more productive you are throughout the day.