[ISN] On Avoiding The Cable News Establishment

From: InfoSec News (isnat_private)
Date: Thu Dec 13 2001 - 00:48:51 PST

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    Forwarded from: Richard Forno <rfornoat_private>
    [While there is very little about information security in this, I 
    figured all the frenzied news junkies on the list might enjoy 
    mainlining this. :)  - WK] 
    Article with reference links:
    On Avoiding The Cable News Establishment
    Richard Forno 
    9 December 2001: Essay #2001-14
    (c) 2001 by Author. Permission is granted to quote, reprint or redistribute
    provided the text is not altered, and appropriate credit is given.
    Summary: Comments on WTF the cable news channels are doing to their
    Reader feedback will be placed here
    Disclaimer: I am as American and patriotic as the next person, and my
    work experience and interests will prove that.  If you're in doubt,
    read my bio.
    While some may call me a "news junkie" the simple fact is that I want
    to know what's happening around the world each day. For that, I turn
    to the radio, television, and Internet for a diverse assortment of
    sources from which I can make my own judgments about current affairs
    in the world. In short, I want to do a very dangerous thing in
    America.....think for myself and make my own value judgements about
    today's events. C'est la guerre.
    Having said that, I am boycotting the mainstream American television
    news organizations that essentially serve as the private sector based
    propaganda arm of the federal government and commercial interests. Not
    to mention, it's plain annoying to watch these days. Plus, the
    American news organizations are more enamored with playing Armchair
    General (trying to second-guess the military, or using gee-whiz
    graphics to show squad-level tactics on how to conquer a cave in
    Afghanistan), conducting rushed interviews with subject matter
    experts, or spinning pro-American messages in their editorials rather
    than educating the public and providing genuine news information. It's
    just "Hollywood" shaped as "news." Compare that with PBS' News Hour,
    where a recent interview of three subject matter experts on the
    Taliban ran for twelve minutes and wasn't rushed to get another
    commercial break in, or for the anchor to ask a moronic question that
    side-steps the heart of the matter in favor of sensationalist leading
    questions. On 'commercial' news television, the interview might have
    been given five minutes, and chances are the anchor would interrupt
    someone to go to commercial break. Put another way, when you watch the
    News Hour, you come away educated, not overwhelmed or simply fed the
    mainstream party line.
    That being said, I'm forced to say that I'm staying as far away from
    the cable networks (CNN, CNN Headline News, Fox News Channel (FNC),
    and MSNBC) as I can. These days, I now get my news from PBS' News
    Hour, National Public Radio, BBC, C-SPAN, Deutche Welle, any number of
    overseas sources, and the Internet. The American networks are too
    focussed on anything American that they gloss over or ignore
    equally-important events overseas that directly impact our country.
    For example, until three suicide bombers killed dozens in Israel last
    week, and Israel responded with military force, few if any Americans
    knew that the situation in the Middle East is the worst it's been in
    nearly a decade until the "breaking news" appeared to interrupt their
    coverage of the Afghanistan Affair.
    Remember that the White House has consulted media and entertainment
    executives on at least two (that we know of) meetings to discuss how
    to entertain, inform, and garner public support for the 'war effort'
    in light of 09-11. So it's no surprise that we're seeing what we're
    seeing on the tube. After all, depending on whom you watch,  America
    is "Under Attack," "Under Siege," "On Alert", "Under Assault," "At
    War," and "In Crisis." To round things off, there's also "Target:
    America" and "America Strikes Back." Even when watching a non-news
    program (eg, "news-fotainment", such as call-in shows and such) you
    see these phrases splashed on the screen. We also see the CNN "War
    Room" and the NBC "Terrorism Task Force" doing research and reports
    for us as well, striving to be the 'PR Pentagon' complete with floor
    maps, topographic overlays, and scores of retired general officers
    doing the assorted on-air analysis for us. Understandably, the White
    House is attempting to conduct reactive damage control to the American
    public's apathy toward world events; instead of developing a long-term
    and more effective public awareness campaign for American policy, it's
    simply in-your-face, cheap, and obvious propaganda. After all, the
    goal of this media blitz is to garner public support for what everyone
    keeps saying is going to be a 'long war' against terrorism. So why not
    take a more rational approach to this necessary undertaking?
    Thus, as concerned citizens who are hopefully patriotic, we must -
    like cattle - turn to the news channels for reassurance and "the
    latest" on whatever America's "At," "In, " or "Under" this hour, and
    be exposed to the following:
    CRAWL AWAY. First and foremost, information "crawlers" are perfectly
    acceptable for daily use on financial news channels, but since
    September 11, they are everywhere. Turn to watch CNN's "Crossfire" and
    there's a ticker, as is there one on CNBC during non-market hours when
    watching "National Geographic Explorer."  Couple this crawler with the
    logo for the show you're watching and any information captions on
    who's talking, the "LIVE" or "BREAKING" indicators, and you've got a
    very noisy screen to look at. Even CNBC added a news crawler at the
    bottom of the screen that contains news tidbits that you can try to
    read while monitoring your stocks on the traditional ticker, and
    there's one on VH-1's morning show to offset today's music videos.
    Worse yet, picture a show with goofy animations or captions  (eg,
    CNN's usually good "Reliable Sources" program) that has text going
    left, right, left, and right, while the crawler crawls from right to
    left. Talk about a distraction - one wonders if CNN will provide
    viewers with advertisements for dramamine before each program.
    The crawler was a subject of a recent op-ed by Peter Beinart, editor
    of The New Republic. Howard Kurtz, host of CNN's "Reliable Sources" -
    a show that he claims "turns a critical lens on the media" - responded
    on 8 December by smugly saying, "We at CNN are sorry that our valiant
    effort to provide the public with more news is straining your brain.
    Most people, I guess this doesn't include magazine editors, can
    process more than one piece of information at a time. Walk and chew
    gum, so to speak. My kids can do it, anyone can do it. The world's a
    complex place, lots of data coming in at once. I could be talking
    about Afghanistan, and the crawl could tell you about that super-duper
    scooter called "It". You wouldn't want to be the only guy who doesn't
    know about "It," would you? It's the Internet age, we all have to
    adapt, or the terrorist will have won....So, my advice, Mr. Beinart,
    get with the program." I like Howard, but his flippant response was
    indicative of the ego-centric, controlling nature of the content
    providers in today's day and age. Sadly, I agree with Beinart and
    don't think the crawlers will go away anytime soon, so I will go away
    from the crawlers.
    Message to the media: We're not in a play-by-play crisis like the week
    following September 11. Crawlers served their purpose that first week,
    but are pissing your viewers off now, particularly since you use them
    to promote what's "coming up" on your websites, in online chats, or
    later in the day. Use crawls when there's emergency stuff going on,
    not for advertising purposes or for routine news items that would only
    appear in the next segment anyway.
    MEDIA TERMINOLOGY. Also, "BREAKING NEWS" should be considered
    "BREAKING" while it's happening, not used as a teaser for a shift in
    program coverage hours after the event occured. "BREAKING NEWS" is not
    watching HAZMAT vehicles rolling up to a building in Florida, but the
    original news that there might be a possible anthrax situation down
    there. Nor should the B-roll (the video shown on the screen while the
    reporter is speaking) of such trucks be still marked as "BREAKING"
    three hours later in the evening. In a similar vein, "LIVE" means
    "we're watching it as it happens" not that it happened "sometime that
    day." If it's not happening in real-time as I'm watching, make sure we
    know it's "EARLIER TODAY."
    Viewers will agree that "BREAKING NEWS" should not be used to indicate
    "a new story" either, but to alert them to a truly important item that
    warrants viewer attention. However, the more "BREAKING NEWS" the news
    channels can throw on the screen - for whatever reason - the more
    viewers will be hooked through a few more commercial slots, and thus
    there is a business need to have "BREAKING NEWS" during the broadcast
    day. That's why today's current segue to a commercial break goes
    something like this: "And when we come back, we have some breaking
    news to report on from Afghanistan....." Yet, after the commercial
    break, viewers are first "brought up to date with the latest
    information" and then presented a snippet of something new that will
    be elaborated on further "when we come back" from yet another
    commercial break. It's no wonder the anchors call this a "time-out"
    instead of a "commercial" - we need a time-out from the malarkey they
    shovel at us.
    JULY FOURTH, EVERY DAY. Further, while I'm as American as the next
    person, why do our news channels continue to inundate viewers with the
    omnipresent computer-generated flags and/or the red-white-and-blue
    motif? Try to watch a cable news program and not find a
    computer-generated American flag waving in the background behind the
    show's caption bar (CNN and MSNBC), in the upper left corner (FNC), or
    even on the scoreboard of a college soccer game (Comcast) or Monday
    Night Football (ABC)....even NBC has one waving inside it's "peacock"
    logo during primetime programming. Do these media morons think we are
    so stupid that we need to be reminded constantly that we're
    Americans?  Cable news operators repeatedly claim they try to make an
    objective, unbiased presentation to their viewers.  At the risk of
    sounding unpatriotic, it's hard to be objective when you have one
    person's flag waving in your face at every opportunity, don't you
    B-ROLL HELL. Quit showing the same B-roll of America's Most Wanted
    Terrorist every time there's a story about him. How many times have we
    seen Osama clad in white, kneeling and firing an AK-47, or his scrawny
    hands curled around a steel microphone (you know, the one where he's
    wearing a camoflague field jacket) or festooned in white grinning like
    the Cheshire Cat at a family wedding? Will we continue to see that
    mid-90s footage of him walking around talking on the handheld radio
    with the long whip antenna, or laying on his side on a mat in an
    Afghanistan cave? How about him giving a speech while stroking his
    Kalishnikov? Enough is enough! We know what the ugly cuss looks like -
    he doesn't need any more free publicity - and we don't need to see his
    bearded mug over and over to become even more full of pro-American
    sentiment. But mark my words, a news anchor will mention 'Bin Laden'
    and one of the clips I just named will be rolled, probably more than
    once, during the segment.
    DON'T INSULT OUR ENEMY. On a slightly different note - and this
    started in the print journalism world - if you didn't know, Reuters
    News Service angered many lawmakers and citizens by refusing to call
    those that planned and conducted September 11th's events as
    "terrorists." In a statement, Reuters' CEO and Editor-in-Chief stated
    that "Our policy is to avoid the use of emotional terms and not make
    value judgments concerning the facts we attempt to report accurately
    and fairly." Far be it to be politicly-incorrect in this period of (as
    of today, still) an undeclared 'war' on terrorism. CNN.COM even has a
    statement confirming to the world that it indeed uses the term
    "terrorists" and has no reservations about that moniker in the news
    business. We would not want to offend those that masterminded the
    events of September 11, would we? Somehow I don't think that branding
    Osama a "terrorist" will be the spark that causes him to plan
    additional harm on his enemies, he's pretty much got that figured out
    already, provided he's around to see it And don't tell me that "one
    man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter" line of malarkey.
    Firefighters fight fire, crimefighters fight crime, so what exactly do
    freedom fighters fight?
    One final note - has anyone else noticed that since September 11th,
    CNN's programs all have the same music (the 'dump-dump' drum roll
    tune) to start their shows and to bumper commercial spots? Or how ol'
    Wolf Blitzer "hands you off" to Bill Press and "Crossfire?" As if Wolf
    is looking out for our personal well-being and intends to hand-hold
    each of us during this time of tragedy. How reassuring.
    Until cable network news organizations do the responsible thing and
    provide not only more thorough and balanced information to their
    viewers, but in a way that isn't distracting, cluttered, or insulting
    to our collective national psyche, I'll avoid them like the plague,
    and continue to receive my news from more objective, educated, and
    uncluttered sources.
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