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: http://www.infowarrior.org/articles/2001-14.html On Avoiding The Cable News Establishment Richard Forno 9 December 2001: Essay #2001-14 rfornoat_private (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 viewers. 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 think? 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. - ISN is currently hosted by Attrition.org To unsubscribe email majordomoat_private with 'unsubscribe isn' in the BODY of the mail.
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