Saturday, January 10, 2015

more news at 7

Does anyone remember news in the pre-internet, pre-tech age? Long ago there'd be specific times of day when people would tune into their radios or turn on their televisions to catch up on the latest developments in local and world affairs. Generally speaking, there was a 15 minute morning news program you'd listen to at breakfast if you had time before going to work. Then there was another of those at noon. But the biggest news time of the day happened in the evening between 6 and 7 o'clock. The local news was reported in the first half hour and after that it was time to find out the latest about what was going on in the country and the world at large.

Back then it wasn't the least bit unusual that people everywhere would spend days wondering if little Timmy had been rescued from the well. There was never a question about whether rescuing Timmy from the well was the right thing to do. We may not have had electronic social media but everyone was certain you couldn't leave a little kid at the bottom of a hole in the ground. That was before the 24/7 news cycle.

Now all is confusion. Depending upon the opinions of whoever it is we choose to listen to, or watch, or read, we learn there may be many good reasons for leaving little Timmy in the well. Who is that dog anyway and can she be trusted? Getting Timmy out of the well is sure to be expensive and I'd prefer that money not to come out of my hard earned tax money. The people of Timmy's ethnic group are untrustworthy so why should we help one of them? Timmy's probably dead, so why bother?

So we go on to other things that are more horrific or more entertaining. The news cycle that never stops pushes and pulls our attention from one thing to another - never leaving us time for reflection. We think we're being informed when what's really happening is that we're being manipulated into feeling anxious and unsure about what is right.

I don't mean to oversimplify important events by appearing to wish we could go back to quieter times in the news cycle. Then again, the world has always been a wild and crazy place and I do believe there's a way of learning about events that doesn't force us into hastily made opinions forged by those who may not have our best interests at heart.

I wonder how little Timmy is doing?


Tom said...

Just to say I have been here, dear Susan.

marja-leena said...

Oh yes, we used to watch the news on TV regularly but now rarely and at 9 or 10 pm CBC for things like election results. Really we are inundated by news everywhere all day, and much of it is opinion, isn't it? One does turn off sometimes. I did that pretty much when we were away for several days, partly becuase the internet connections were flaky, but that was a good thing really.

Love your darwings, Susan. I never could do animals.

susan said...

It's always nice to see you've been here, Tom.

susan said...

We haven't watched television these past ten years (always confuses the cable guys when we insist we only want high speed internet and phone). Still, the inundation is largely self-induced because I read far more than is likely good for me.

I'm glad to know you enjoyed your time away and being off-line entirely for a while is always good.

I'm pleased with the collie but the rest I scribbled :)

Lindsay Byrnes said...

Hi Susan
News and current affairs represented the flagship programs of TV in Australia from inception in 1956, but has since moved away from the short live reads to embrace a 24 hour coverage of a combination of local, national and international stories.
But on the ABC, their 24 hour news coverage will inevitably stick with a story and usually provide a very comprehensive independent coverage. Many who would represent say a Timmies audience, (he looks very regal in your drawing) are dismayed over our government’s recent decision to cut $250 million in funding over the next 3 years. You might be surprised to know the national broadcaster is affectionately known as “our auntie” and covers any number of human interest stories, both after the evening news on TV or on radio which is still of interest to many and particularly to people in the country.
Best wishes

Andrew MacLaren-Scott said...

I still watch my regular TV news programme every day. It's an anchor of some sort in a sea of confusion.

susan said...

Hi Lindsay
In all honesty I probably shouldn't offer opinions about television because I haven't willingly watched any of it in many years. In the few years before we gave it up we only ever watched baseball. Nevertheless, it can be hard to ignore when there are sets playing in in public places - even in front of the chair at my dentist's office. Outlets like CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC are frantic and very competitive. Since I appear to need much quiet, I won't even mention the horror of witnessing commercials.

I'm glad to know you feel your ABC station provides broad in-depth coverage of issues interesting to Australians. American news programs tend to rely on having something new and shocking to report on a regular basis and never do tell you what happened afterwards.

I apologize for not having explained the Timmy in the well story came from a TV show that was famous many years ago called 'Lassie'. She was Timmy's collie dog who had to get him out of trouble in every episode.
Best wishes

susan said...

It's good if you feel you can trust the news you watch regularly, Andrew.

Halle said...

I remember the time of news as a short report on what has happened. When it changed into a way for people to know what to think about the events of the day escapes me. Sadly, even in those old days I rarely trusted the news media. Every time I had personal knowledge of the events, they were reported inaccurately. Sometimes wildly inaccurately.
Now we have "expert opinions" on every aspect of our lives and what to eat for dinner has become part of the news. And yes, it is quite likely Timmy never would have been found, but a human interest story of a stray collie in need of a good home would have made the news cycle.

susan said...

Hi Halle, It's great to see you've been by to visit. I promise to reciprocate soon

The arrival of cable television saw the beginning of the 24-hour news cycle with its demands for faster paced continually updated stories. This cycle creates ferocious competition among media organizations for audience share, which, coupled with the profit demand of their corporate ownership, has led to a decline in journalistic standards. I agree with you in having noticed myself many years ago that what gets reported is often far from what I witnessed personally.

Meanwhile, at least in the US, major media has moved toward 'sensationalism, entertainment, and opinion' and away from traditional values of verification, proportion, relevance, depth, and quality of interpretation. Of course, the next step now we're in the age of social media is that everything goes up for public discussion immediately - true or not. This is an amazing example of how things can go wrong.

You're certainly right that the lost dog scenario is always worth a headline spot.

Tom said...

I have been reading the comments here with great interest. I wonder whether Lindsay's comment about "Auntie" is a hangover from the UK's BBC habit of being called "Auntie"? Both you and Halle talk about the vogue for reporting sensation-mongering news. That also applies to the UK broadcasting services. I recall on one occasion counting the number of murders reported on one BBC broadcast. It began with reports of five murders! I don't hold my breath waiting for some sensationally good news.

Rolling news channels have become a bane. It's repeat after repeat, with (as has been said) expert opinion given from a never-ending supply of contributors who often are peddling their own agendas. Mix that with the obvious agendas of the news readers or their bosses, and with the usual mix of mistakes and best-guess news, and one has a totally unbelievable output. Not only that, but viewers are frequently exhorted to send in their pictures of an event, or to express their views on a subject, as if they are of any real value. And don't you just love the idiotic questions some reporters ask? Interviewing some person who has just experienced a severe shock is bound to contain the question, "And how do you feel about seeing such-and-such killed in that manner?" What sort of answer do they expect?" Ah Mr/Mrs/Ms. Reporter, I feel great; over the moon! Must look out for some more!"

Sorry about the rant. At a bit of a loose end at present. Eye surgery went well, but am currently squinting through one eye, the dodgy left, at this screen. Not the most conducive state for calm, rational reporting. Of course, I could always make up some gory details. It wouldn't matter if it were fiction would it? The broadcasters get away with it, after all.

Andrew MacLaren-Scott said...

Hmm. I watch the BBC. Not sure if "trust" is exactly the word to use but it offers a view of events from a perspective I can understand.

susan said...

I read through the BBC web page a couple of times a week. While it doesn't have the gravitas of earlier days (nothing does) the perspective is at least more measured than some.

susan said...

Nice to see you again, Tom. I hadn't been aware you were to have eye surgery until I read your comment on Lindsay's most recent post. I'm glad to hear it went well and I hope you're resting as much as you can while the healing continues.

Yes, I absolutely thought of Auntie Beeb when Lindsay mentioned the television network in Australia. Canada has the CBC as its (formerly?) government sponsored station but it never got called 'Cousin Ceeb' - thankfully. Of course, as I've mentioned here before we don't watch television at all and not for many years. For one thing, it's fun to boggle the cable sales staff and, besides that, we got to the point in the US when we could no longer stand the frenetic pace whether news, commercials, or most programming.

The last time I did watch television for any length of time was when I visited my mother who lived with some close family friends during the last year of her life. It was a house where there were several television sets and all were on most of the time. One was on all the time for company in case the husband woke during the night. CNN or Fox News was constantly playing and pulling people's attention away. I gave up trying to count the acts of violence reported, never mind the crass and ignorant opinionating and on the scene interviews. What a nightmare. My consolation was that my mother was cheerful and no longer cared - the other was that the weather was nice enough that week that I could go outside for respite.

Media craziness began in the US and for a while I held out the hope it wasn't endemic. I'm sorry to know my hopes were in vain because this type of news reporting can be worse than none. Gory details, indeed.

I hope you feel better soon, my friend.

Lindsay Byrnes said...

Hi Susan
Indeed as Tom indicated "Aunty" is in imitation of the BBC's nickname. Bear in mind, as we have said before, in the early periods in Australia we were more British then the British!!
Its origins are obscure; possibly from a puritanical BBC journalistic style, echoing the sentiment that “Auntie” knows what best for you as you say as in "Auntie Beebe". But also most likely to be used in the early days to rebuff requests or its critics.
Our ABC shows a lot of programs from the BBC, some are beautifully produced and in my view streets ahead of the commercial networks in attention to historical detail and in creative excellence. Tonight at 7.30 on the ABC we have another in the series from Brian Cox. Now in my biased opinion, If your don’t like some of these programs from the respective “aunties” you simply don’t like ice cream!!
Best wishes

susan said...

Hi again Lindsay
It seems to me that in those days Australia and Canada were close contestants for the more British than Britain title. I'm surprised Canada's CBC didn't come up with the 'Aunty' theme as well.
While we don't watch regular television we do have access to video streaming as well as rentals. I agree the BBC does have some excellent programming and, yes, I still like ice cream. :)
All the best

Rob said...

As one of the guys that wrote and read the news "way back when," I look at what passes now for news — especially on hourly "newscasts" — and I wouldn't go back to it. It is so bland, and rarely catches important stories/events. I watched the CBC's "The National" — it's "flagship" newscast — tonight, and was kinda bored with it.
I get better news on Facebook. Or Al Jazeera.

Blessings and Bear hugs!

susan said...

I remember Lloyd Robertson with great fondness these days - Walter Cronkite and Huntley and Brinkley too. Things haven't changed for the better on television.

Al Jazeera is actually pretty good :)

Lisa Golden said...

I'm not sure which is worse. And does it matter? The national news, the international news, the thousands of websites selling ads and pushing news as entertainment. Just this morning I tut tutted at the local Pittsburgh news crew who thought their jobs were to make the cold weather funny. Please don't.

Halle said...

Don't you feel just a little bit sorry for the poor schmuck who lands what she thinks is a plum job ~ doing the news ~ and ends up having to do just that... make information into entertainment. There is another layer that hired the people who hired them, making the policy. I have no patience for them.

susan said...

What else can we expect when all the major media outlets are owned by a very few corporations? There's a reason the name was changed to 'infotainment'.

These past few years I've been in the habit of reading multiple online news sources and have a few favorite writers whose work I (generally) trust. Feel free to ask me if you want to know who they are :)