Our ability to access information is, as we all know, changing. For years now newspaper sales have declined, thanks mostly to the internet. The digital age has effectively made televised news redundant. You no longer need to wait for set times for a broadcast update, nor do you have to listen to pundits talk about their corporate-funded opinions on global events.
One could even make the case we’re seeing the end of the mainstream digital news websites. With most networks funded by special interests or corporations (GE, Disney, News Corp.etc.) why waste time listening to the distorted reports of conglomerate dictated information?
Why the change?
It’s been talked in depth that new technology has created this shift. With Twitter feeds and Facebook timelines giving people the ability to openly share and discuss stories from varied sources, it’s no surprise we are literally affecting the news in the palms of our own hands. Hand held devices have made news more compact than before, and people are less inclined to listen to long-winded narratives, preferring instead bullet point synopses.
Yet it would be wrong to assume new technology is the sole reason. The politics behind America’s major news networks has long-affected the audience’s engagement.
Network Television: A sibling rivalry
Despite emphatically denying any bias, FOX is the conservative info-outlet; speaking directly to their issues, framing thoughts, and even dictating rhetoric used by those on the far right. On more than one occasion they have altered their message to meet the populist views of the GOP.
NBC, although not as plainly pro-Democrat as FOX is Republican, clearly centers its political views on the left’s agenda and have consistently shown no issue with directly attacking the other side’s thoughts, ideologies and the representatives who may err.
More time is spent slinging mud at each other and their politics, with so-called assistance from recurring “neutral” experts, instead of actually reporting stories. Today these networks pass for little more than well-funded, hyperactive chat shows.
And then there’s CNN…
Once regarded as the pinnacle of world news, a moderate voice in a partisan drunk yard, 1994 saw Congressman James Traficant suggest CNN, for their superior understanding of foreign affairs, ought to replace the CIA.
That was the CNN of yesteryear. Nowadays they focus on the sensational rather than researched facts.With a heavy reliance on computer-generated visuals to rival James Cameron’s Avatar, gone are the days of educated CNN discussions. Audience numbers have shifted allegiance to the likes of FOX, NBC, or alternative, independent sources. In fact all three broadcasters have seen their audiences dwindle. FOX, being the sole voice for right wing opinions, has maintained a majority share of viewers but have seen their younger audience evaporate.
When news gets funny
To most it seems peculiar that a comedic network would be mentioned, but viewers of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and the soon to depart Colbert Report, particularly the younger audience, are finding news which entertains and is relatable.
Combining wit with critical commentary, often at the expense of the big three, Comedy Central’s parody news programs seemingly only have one element which can be attacked by competitors: the fact they are not officially a news source.
By using comedy and wisdom, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert are two of the most educated people in the business, showing a comprehension of facts to best the likes of Bill O’Reilly and Chris Matthews. In fact, much of Stewart’s reporting is based on the inability of network anchors to accurately do their job. This week alone he spent time breaking down a conservative, and ridiculous, attack by FOX News against freed POW Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, whilst a Brookings Institute poll states Stewart is a more trusted news resource than MSNBC.
A simple YouTube search demonstrates how, on countless occasions, Stewart has unveiled the double standard of both FOX and NBC who freely swap their views depending on which party controls the White House and Congress.
But is this good for the masses?
Quite simply, yes.
We’re facing a growing population becoming more apathetic to the hostility taking over the once-esteemed government halls in the capital. College kids today are voting in fewer numbers, with many believing that politics is little more than a corporate sponsored institution, sentiments which have spilled onto the national media where information has become untrustworthy.
We appear to be entering into a rebellion of sorts: independent news sites, like USA Watchdog and Mother Jones, are gaining from the fall of big broadcasters and national press with a real analysis of the state of things. Bloggers are engaging with their readers and sparking informative debates like traditional CNN, whilst Comedy Central parodies continue to pick apart political arguments made by representatives and their corporate affiliates.
It’s a slow decline and unfortunately we will continue to see FOX attack everything Obama does, NBC fight relentlessly against the Religious Right, and CNN desperately attempt to be relevant once more.
But it is a necessary decline for the sanity of Americans who, more than ever, are in dire need of forming their own opinions based on real information, instead of someone else doing it for them.