There is too much content (and not enough real news)

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, March 4, 2020, 11:00 PM | comments: 0

As someone trained to produce media, with a journalism degree, I saw a couple of things today that triggered me a little. The first was some random person in one of my forums crediting "YouTubers and podcasters" as the source of information that they believed was true. The second was a Disney fan site reporting the "news" that restaurants are no longer serving bread with dinner, followed by countless comments about how Disney is greedy and destined to fail. So many groans.

When the Iraq war started in 2003, we had our first glimpse of having too much time to fill. It was the start of the decline of really solid international news coverage. At the time, CNN had its sister network, Headline News, which repeated the news most of the day on a 15 minute cycle. As things happened and became more newsworthy, they rotated out stories for the newer items. I loved that format, because you could get a lot of information with little commitment. But Fox News in particular put up their waving flag graphics at the start of the war and did their best to fill 24 hours of talking heads, every day. MSNBC eventually followed but was irrelevant for many years. By 2013, Pew found that the cable news networks were reporting news less than half of the time, and MSNBC was the worst with an 85/15 opinion to news ratio. It didn't take long for Headline News to be a format that was not profitable.

Many people, including me, suggested that big news organizations had lost their way, incapable of separating opinion from fact. I think this is objectively true. There has always been a more subtle debate about whether this came about out of profit motives or just giving people what they want, and I think that's objectively both. The problem is that it didn't end there. The great promise of the Internet was that it gave everyone a voice, but people seem to be indiscriminate about the voices they listen to. That's why we have people like the ignorant "Food Babe" able to make a living ("did you know they pump nitrogen into airplanes?!").

I'm not even going to get into all of the crazy racist stuff your uncle posts on Facebook.

When I was a kid, and really until he stopped reporting in 2005 because of cancer, I watched Peter Jennings on ABC News almost every night. I strangely associate 9/11 with him, because he was on the air for 17 straight hours. Jennings, along with Tom Brokaw and Dan Rather, both of which retired around the same time, were the classic news men of a different era. We could trust them and expected them to give us straight facts. They weren't perfect, but they led organizations that earned our trust.

Now, even the people who remember those journalists, have largely abandoned truth and pursued the voices that will make them feel comfortable. That's sad.

As for the bread at Walt Disney World, maybe you haven't noticed, but bread has fallen out of favor because it's a carb and people want to avoid all of the gluten that wasn't hurting them. Maybe they stopped serving it just because it wasn't what customers wanted.

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