The Sham News Cycle

by Will on August 30, 2010

Julian Sanchez pithily expresses the way cable news, and the network shows as well, ill serve the public’s understanding of pressing issues:

David Roberts tweets:

Every ‘winger-driven faux story now has two phases. First headline: “Faux story!” Second: “Faux story becomes huge story!” Pathetic.

This is actually a bit truncated.  The steps are:

  1. Faux Story
  2. Why is the Em-Ess-Em ignoring this huge Faux Story?
  3. After days or weeks of flood-the-zone coverage across multiple conservative media outlets, some significant portion of the base is convinced that the faux story is true and/or significant.
  4. Mainstream press takes note of (3) and speculates about the political and electoral consequences
  5. Panicked Democrats react as though the faux story is true and/or significant
  6. See, we told you it was a huge story!

Lather, rinse, repeat.

That sounds about right to me.

I’m old enough to remember when it was fashionable to poo-poo “local news” as a category of media, because those shows tend to pander to people’s fears about crime and kidnappers and the like. These days they’re one of the few American news institutions that cover actual news.

The problem is, of course, that “Yelling Match” will be a more commercially successful program than “Sober, Careful Analysis,” because it will be more entertaining. I think perhaps the implication is that PBS or NPR should launch a 24-hour news program to offer some responsible competition to the current players.

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