Political News? No Thanks!

Dad, why do you watch the news?


That’s what I asked my father when I was a kid. The evening News Hour wasn’t entertaining, and it didn’t feature cartoons or cool characters.

But to him, it was appointment viewing. He’d watch some stiff guy in a suit read monotonous accounts of what someone else decided were the important events of the day. As a kid, I couldn’t imagine a more boring television experience.

Fast-forward a few decades, and news is still curated by some unseen people at a TV network. But it’s far from boring: it’s been sensationalized.

The ideal of journalism as a neutral voice has gone out the window in favor of attracting the most eyeballs. Much like social media, National News now caters to our personal biases as a business model.

Whole networks have sprung into being to specialize in political biases. If you want to hear that Democrats are bad and Republicans are good, there’s a channel for that. If you want to hear that Republicans are bad and Democrats are good, there’s a channel for that too.

That outlook sets up those channels nicely to do two things: Scare the bejesus out of us, and/or anger us till we’re frothing at the mouth.

It’s great for ratings. But if you want an informed public who can impartially decide on and support optimum policy choices, it leaves a lot to be desired.

In politics, is a conservative policy the right response to any and all issues? Or is a progressive policy the only way to go? Bloviating talking heads from one’s favorite flavor of political news would have you think so.

However, any rational thinker with access to the unvarnished truth would consider a range of ideas; it wouldn’t matter whether they came from the left or right side of the political spectrum. Sadly, the unvarnished truth, on which to base a judgment, is difficult to come by in the biased news outlets.

One other thing you can be sure of when you listen to those outlets, is that if your side is losing, it’s because the other side is cheating. It makes for permanent outrage. You know how unhealthy that is personally?

That’s not to say that there aren’t things worth fearing and getting mad about. There are. But I resent somebody artificially inducing those feelings for the sake of their ratings. Who wants to be manipulated by them?

We have family for that.

So even after that revelation, I have to admit that I’ve tuned into so-called news programs whose business model is to malign a different political viewpoint. I did get mad, but it was mad at myself for falling into their trap.

From now on, I resolve to boycott the news sources that promote permanent outrage.

Further, I’ll try to find principled journalism that’s unbiased (and probably under-reported) that doesn’t aim to scare or anger. Who knows? Some of those stories may actually be good news.

The End

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  1. Mike,
    Thank you for articulating what is ‘wrong’ with televised journalism lately. It is not, sadly, reporting the news that is important to the powers that produce, promote, and provide the telecasts. I believe the problem is well identified and defined, but I do not see an easy solution. Scrolling through curated (by whom?) social media feeds (looking at you – Facebook, Twitter, Nextdoor) provides confirmation to most who use them. Using the large news aggregators (looking at you, Bing, Google, Yahoo!) is not providing a clear view of, well, of anything. If you happen upon any ~decent~, mostly unbiased sources of news – please share!

  2. Excellent!

    Couldn’t express it better myself.

  3. Veronica Foy says

    Well said

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