The media is an interesting thing. As I grew up I was constantly told in church to watch out for the deadly grasp of popular movies, TV and magazines. And although those played a primary role in kindling my obsession with Ryan Seacrest and making me go on the “Hollywood diet” multiple times, this is not the media I am referring to. The “respectable” news outlets are the ones that I would like to discuss, as I believe they have just as much of a detrimental effect on our society. CNN, MSNBC, and FOX news are all guilty of their own brand of spin, sensationalism and useless fodder for the general public.
Before I begin, I would like to say that I understand the reason for this. They are businesses. They need to sell advertising to live, and to sell ad space they have to get viewers. In order to get viewers, they need to get the scoop on everyone else, and in order to do this, sometimes they have to make up a story. This is what bothers me.
An example I would like to use is that of the Killer bees around the turn of the century. I remember seeing news reports of the spread of Africanized killer bees, and different news outlets dubbing their segments “Killer Bee attack 99′. Mothers were keeping their children indoors, and any kind of bee was generally feared well beyond the range of the bees. Fast forward to today, where the bees have stopped their march north, and become generally less aggressive due to genetic dilution of their species because of interbreeding with more docile american bees. Good thing we worried.
Another example is that of the “Fist bump heard ’round the world” when then Presidential Candidate Barack Obama and his wife Michelle bumped fists at a rally, resulting in news outlets to investigate whether it was a “terrorist fist jab” or not. Wow.
For the past couple of months, CNN has been selling T-shirts with their most sensational headlines emblazoned on them. I am sure they are out there, the late twenty-something, former keg busting dolts who are buying CNN shirts with headlines like “jiggle-gut men try out for cheerleader” because they are still selling them.
So what is the problem with this? It’s all entertainment right? Not everyone knows that. Old ladies and naive every-men turn on CNN expecting genuine news, but instead get a story about how the Harry Potter books are rising the level of satan worship among children. Shock value is what these stories posses. It makes people tell their friends, and often pushes actual social issues out of the way. I can’t tell you how many times I have gone home for Sunday dinner to find my family discussing something in the news that was complete rubbish.