The News is Dead

I have been in a conversation with a friend over the benefits (and drawbacks) of living without television. (Disclaimer: we have a television and can watch movies, but we have no cable, satellite, or even an antenna.)

Our conversation migrated into the merits (or lack thereof) of “news.” I was turned off television news when Diane Sawyer told me about a plane crash with a gleam in her eye. (No, really, she described a plane crash into a Florida office building as a “fascinating” story. She had to hurry and cover her gaffe by adding, “and tragic.”)

Now news outlets on the internet have gone the same way: all gossip and sensationalism, and rarely anything of real interest. I’ve gotten to the point that I rarely check MSN anymore because I don’t often read the articles. And this morning offered a fine example why I should never bother again.

Top news stories for April 11, 2012 at 9:20 AM:

  • Eliminations on “Dancing with the Stars” and “The Voice”
  • Housing: What can you buy for $200k, $500k, or $1 million
  • Arkansas fires Petrino after wreck and misdeeds (apparently this man is their football coach)
  • Under-20 Celebs with sophisticated style
  • Best of spring style from East to West
  • Why do we hand politicians babies?
  • Earthquake in Indonesia; North Korea prepping for rocket launch; Santorum drops out of race

There you have it folks–what passes for news on a major online news outlet: television reviews, articles on houses the vast majority of Americans can’t afford, a sports scandal, two articles on fashion, an inane question which no one wants to know the answer to, and one–ONE–spot in seven for things which people actually consider news: natural disasters, warlike overtures by a hostile nation, and a notable change in the political landscape.

Here are the editor’s picks:

Other prominent news stories include:

Pardon my language for a moment, but no other word will do: Who gives a fuck?

Zip lines in Vegas? Who the hell is Tony Romo and why do I care? Dressing like celebrities? Yeah, I really want to take fashion tips from the likes of these people.

It used to be that people read the newspaper to learn things. But what passes for “news” today not only doesn’t teach you anything, but you have to be lacking in a certain amount of intelligence to even enjoy reading it.

I will admit, when I first heard about blogging, I scoffed. Who wants to read a bunch of hack-jounralists’ editorials or details on someone’s boring, everyday life? I even hated the word “blogging.” It had a ring of idiocy to it.

Now, a decade later, I find that blogs are a better source of news than places which are paid to disseminate it. At least most bloggers openly admit their leanings–be that liberal, conservative, tea party, black, white, male, female, gay, straight, religious, atheist, etc. You can make an informed decision whether you want to read only those things which agree with your world view, only those things which oppose it, or a combination of both.

News outlets, however, try to maintain the illusion of impartiality while subtly imparting their leanings to their readers. (The exception being Fox News, which is unapologetically conservative.) I find this more dangerous because your views can be swayed without your knowing it, and without you having the option to read something which presents the opposite view. There’s a difference between choosing not to study the other side and not studying the other side because you don’t realize there is another side.

And these “hack-journalist” bloggers actually seem to do a better job at investigative reporting than major news outlets. From Wikipedia:

An early milestone in the rise in importance of blogs came in 2002, when many bloggers focused on comments by U.S. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott.Senator Lott, at a party honoring U.S. Senator Strom Thurmond, praised Senator Thurmond by suggesting that the United States would have been better off had Thurmond been elected president. Lott’s critics saw these comments as a tacit approval of racial segregation, a policy advocated by Thurmond’s 1948 presidential campaign. This view was reinforced by documents and recorded interviews dug up by bloggers. (See Josh Marshall’s Talking Points Memo.) Though Lott’s comments were made at a public event attended by the media, no major media organizations reported on his controversial comments until after blogs broke the story. Blogging helped to create a political crisis that forced Lott to step down as majority leader.

Similarly, blogs were among the driving forces behind the “Rathergate” scandal. To wit: (television journalist) Dan Rather presented documents (on the CBS show 60 Minutes) that conflicted with accepted accounts of President Bush’s military service record. Bloggers declared the documents to be forgeries and presented evidence and arguments in support of that view. Consequently, CBS apologized for what it said were inadequate reporting techniques (see Little Green Footballs). Many bloggers view this scandal as the advent of blogs’ acceptance by the mass media, both as a news source and opinion and as means of applying political pressure.

The impact of these stories gave greater credibility to blogs as a medium of news dissemination. Though often seen as partisan gossips,bloggers sometimes lead the way in bringing key information to public light, with mainstream media having to follow their lead. More often, however, news blogs tend to react to material already published by the mainstream media. Meanwhile, an increasing number of experts blogged, making blogs a source of in-depth analysis.

[Emphasis mine.]

Bloggers are “partisan gossips?” Scroll up to the list of MSN stories that I share and see if that comment can’t also be applied to major news outlets.