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June 16, 2009

Cable News

I was stunned at how poor the Iran coverage was on cable news over the weekend. Then I saw this thought from Matthew Yglesias:

Whenever I find myself talking about new media to skeptics of an older generation who worry that the standards online are too debased, I try to remind people that the real debasing came with the rise of multi-channel cable news. In terms of the Iranian elections, the world’s top newspapers have the people on the ground reporting the main facts, and there’s lots of smart analysis from legitimate experts all over the web, but on television if it can’t be captured by two talking heads debating each other it’s like it never happened. (Hat tip to Jason Linkins, who also provided the emphasis.)
I had noticed that CNN seems to show an awful lot of discussion between experts over each event -- often much more of that than direct coverage of the event itself But I'd never thought of it in quite the way Matthew puts it. Anyway, I turned on CNN this morning to see whether, for a change, they were covering Iran.

And they were -- kind of. There was some talking head being asked about whether Obama should be taking more of a stand in favor of the protestors. The guy's opinion was that he should.

The picture is being coming clearer. Generally CNN consists of one or more talking heads in a room, taking turns talking about whether the latest news event is being handled in accordance with their personal opinion. Proportionately speaking, there seems to be not all that much actual reporting of facts.

I still don't get the reason why this is happening. Maybe it's because people find it more enjoyable than actual reporting because it's a little like gossiping about the failures of the newsmakers? Or is it that and there's a tiny bit of "human drama" when the talking heads disagree -- kind of a combination of news and reality TV? Or could it simply be that it costs less than actual reporting? (They probably don't even have to pay the talking heads, who are happy to be there to publicize themselves.)

June 16, 2009 in Current Affairs | Permalink

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