Intro

Sorry for the length, but I didn't have time to write a short blog.

Monday, November 5, 2012

It's Entertainment...


Okay, I know I promised to lay off the political rants, but then this came up and I just couldn't let it go by.

At what point does the news cease to be the news and become entertainment?

Back in the day of the Iran Hostage situation, the news program Nighline began with Ted Koppel asking "hard hitting" questions.  As things changed, so did the show.  It became pretty clear that it was becoming more and more entertainment and less news and a few years ago, newsmen Koppel left the show in favor of a series of alternating hosts who did largely what would be called fluff pieces and offering things like music that influenced musicians, chef's favorite meals, and ads for cable stations owned by the network's parent company.  It is just as true of late for other news progams like 20/20, Primetime and even occasionally 60 Minutes. 

Let's face it, many young viewers get news from John Stewart and history from movies.

How long can we prolong the closeness of the election when perhaps it would not be close at all if we continue to tell people it is?  I've come to the conclusion that there is no "liberal media" well except MSNBC and all the ones on the web and there is no "fair and balanced" of course that's been true for a long time in the case of FOXnews and all the ones on the web.  On the web, for many, the truth does not matter.  It only comes on what their favorite wackadoodle commentator tells them to think.

What there is though for the mainstream - ratings, sweeps week, and the ever present advertising dollar.  Imagine how little folks would be paying attention or how low our stress would be right now or how little super-pacs would be putting out for air wave dollars if one side or the other knew they were losing.

Why not confront the statements of the candidates when they lie? Because they might stop talking to the press? No, they need the press. Why not report on local and national news when the candidates twist, mislead, and play dirty?  They still need the press, but the press needs viewers and since most get their news from TV and not solid newspapers or web sources, the press need tension.  Tension sells.  Conflict sells.  The story sells. Any good writer will tell you, conflict makes the story.  Without conflict, the story dies.  Ads don't sell.  People don't tune in. Money is not made.

So why not report the truth of every national or state-wide ad over and over until the candidate pulls the ad? The answer is simple...it's entertainment.

The news calls it the reporting cycle.  They even know when a candidate is likely to try and slip something past them by doing it late on a Friday so the it is not "in the cycle."  And so they keep it close.  They ignore the stats and pay little attention to the hardcore statisticians like Nate Silver.  They fail to point out that when someone leads in every major poll for months, it is unlikely that they will lose.  They fail to point out that the "momentum" after the first debate lasted about a week.  Not so much momentum as bump returning the polls to the the race back to where they were before the convention "bump."  Before someone argues there was momentum, go back and look at the polls and see that after the bump of the debates, there was no consistent gain.  If there was truly momentum, then there should be gain every week. That's what momentum means.

And then there was the non-reported stories.  For months, for example, folks asked about taxes.  On October 29th, a  news group, Bloomberg figured out how much Romney paid.  Had it been reported by the nation TV news, it could have cost him dearly and if that happened the conflict could end.  It took Progressive and Democrat leaning on the web groups who finally found the story to report it.  I will readily admit that the web folks who finally found this story do sensationalize it a bit.

Bloomberg did this without breaking any laws.  They did it through the freedom of information act and what journalists are suppose to do, research, question and verify.  Not one national news group reported this finding.  And so the reporting, on Sunday, after the cycle, appears just 48 hours before the election.  Too late to hurt the tension and appearing on websites that most mainstream don't read.  If you want to know how little he paid then you can read the article. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-10-29/romney-avoids-taxes-via-loophole-cutting-mormon-donations.html.

And then there was the curious case of the pulling research done by the Congressional Research Center.  The Congressional Research Center is the "gold standard" of nonpartisan research.  It's job is to answer the questions of congress.  Then congress can do whatever they want with it.  Well someone asked the question - Does cutting taxes create jobs? The Research Center studied the question covering 65 years in the process and concluded that in fact there is zero correlation between tax cuts and the creation of jobs.  The rich get richer and the rest of us use it to pay off something or buy that new TV so we can watch the ads and feel the conflict.

Imagine though the effect of reporting such a story on the favorite talking point of every Republican and some Democrat candidates.  The notion that cutting taxes, supply side economics, show no significant boost to economy or jobs.  What would that do to the presidential campaign?  So, by questioning not the veracity of the report but its wording with a host of attacks from "Republican congressional staffers" the report was taken down off the website despite the recommendations that it stand from the center's economic leadership team.  The report, was by a little newspaper called the New York Times.  It's here http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/02/business/questions-raised-on-withdrawal-of-congressional-research-services-report-on-tax-rates.html.

And this is the report http://graphics8.nytimes.com/news/business/0915taxesandeconomy.pdf. Once on the web, it's always on the web.

How many of the regular news organizations, knowing the importance and impact that such a report would have, reported on this. None, it's entertainment.

You now know why you should do your own research.  Equity of reporting has nothing to do with it.  It all boils down to what will sell.  At a certain point, it's not news...it's entertainment.