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SherlockPoems's avatar

Do you think news programs are more propaganda than news? Where does journalism end and editorial begin?

Asked by SherlockPoems (696 points ) March 18th, 2009

Seems there is so much rhetoric with very little substance. Has ‘news’ become a new interpretation of give and take, freedom of the press with nothing at stake?

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65 Answers

NaturalMineralWater's avatar

Dunno. No news is good news.

AlfredaPrufrock's avatar

I do think broadcast journalism has a biased slant towards an editorial posture dictated by station management. People have the attention spans of gnats when processing news, and sensationalism sells. You have to grab and hold viewers with the first sentence in order to hold market share.

laureth's avatar

Their responsibility isn’t to broadcast news, it’s to make money. So they broadcast the stuff that people will watch, rather than what they need to know to be good citizens in a Democratic society.

The stuff that people will want to watch is either lurid and bloody (like the local news), or something that convinces people that their hunches were right all along (Michael Moore and Rush Limbaugh, for instance). People seem far less likely to watch anything that’s intellectually challenging or dreadfully boring after a long day of production and consumption.

So, in other words, what you are calling “news” programs are really “entertainment” programs. The fact that they resemble news is nothing more than a marketing ploy to make people feel like they’re being good citizens by watching it – much like they probably feel healthier eating bread that is a whopping 5% wholegrain.

cookieman's avatar

@laureth: Which would be all well and good except that many of the viewers are convinced that this news-tainment is the gospel truth.

News-tainment is to journalism as the WWE is to Olympic wrestling.

Bagardbilla's avatar

Yes it does.
Editorials (sensationalism, as Alfreda so nicely put it) starts right after the first set of commercials. Journalism on the other hand died a few decades ago.

SherlockPoems's avatar

OK then may I pose this question: How do we get journalism (back) into the media?

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

@SherlockPoems, get the money out of it. Bad news sells papers (or air time) and how many times have we heard that certain events, i.e. school shootings, are an epidemic? Look up the definition of epidemic, and you’ll see that school shootings, while very terrible, are NOT anything close to an epidemic. What passes for news in this country is better termed info-tainment. I refuse to watch that filth.

cwilbur's avatar

@laureth is right on—the bias in the media isn’t conservative or liberal, it’s sensationalist.

School shootings get people to watch, and that means they see commercials, and it attracts enough eyes to justify breaking in to the regularly scheduled programming. In-depth analysis of important political issues—such as the Congressional hearings about the matter of bonuses in the AIG bailout, and the lack of oversight in the original bailout provisions, going on right now—they don’t attract viewers, and nobody sees them.

(Some of this, I think, is because TV is a poor medium for anything that needs to be pondered. You can’t go back and reread a sentence, and you can’t stop and think about the ramifications of something before continuing. You also can’t absorb it at your own pace, reading the newspaper over breakfast.)

The way to get journalism back into the media is to ignore the sensationalism and go after news. It’s there if you look for it—on NPR, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal. It’s just not found, for the most part, on TV, and most people can’t be bothered with it.

dynamicduo's avatar

One thing I know for sure, Fox News is no longer actual news but a channel of conservative sensationalism to gain eyeballs and thus gain money.

News programs and news in general are not more propaganda than news – you don’t know propaganda till you’ve lived in North Korea or the old USSR – but they are certainly not newsworthy most of the time. But it becomes painfully clear why this is when you look at why they exist. They exist to make money by selling news. Most of their money is made via advertisements. Thus increasing the sensational news, or by fibbing to make it seem like Apple’s headphones actually DO have DRM in them (because DRM is a hot word these days, and people easily get riled up over the mere mention of it), they get more people looking at the news aka more view count, and view count is the primary factor in determining ad revenue or in attracting new advertisers (“we have over one million pageviews a month on our homepage”, for example).

One could argue that these stations are giving what their viewers want, so who’s to say Paris Hilton isn’t news if the viewers want to hear about her and not about dying kids in Africa? This goes back to how intellectual the general populace is in general, which from what I’ve seen is pretty low. The majority of people simply don’t want to think hard about and discuss the current financial and economical situation, they want to find out who got kicked off Hell’s Kitchen. The small minority of people who actually care about such intellectual issues find their news elsewhere apart from the mainstream news providers.

zephyr826's avatar

The slant comes from both sides, and it’s difficult to find the true news amongst the fluff. I feel that we need to patronize those places that still broadcast real news, without all the propaganda and with a global perspective. For me, that’s NPR, but the BBC does a nice trade in world news, if you can get it.
and yes, I know that NPR is not totally unbiased, but it’s the best I can do.

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

NPR does have a slant on its side, too. They just aren’t as obvious about it as Faux News. (Fair and balanced, my ass).

The BBC is probably your best bet.

drClaw's avatar

@zephyr826 I agree 100% with you and maybe NPR has a liberal lean, but when they report the News and aren’t doing some sort of editorial it is all fact no rhetoric.

SeventhSense's avatar

The problem is time constraints and the sheer volume of material. People don’t tune in to substantial programs because they find them tedious. Programmers find that they have to make all this news interesting when in fact much of it by nature is boring. So they are left with the Readers Digest, Cliff’s notes version whereby they just say, “Don’t worry, we’ll find some people who have processed all this news and they will offer you an opinion that is in keeping with yours assuming you fit into one of these D or R categories.” And they find the Rush or Russert or Sawyer or Couric to put a face to it.
In order to truly process news, one actually needs more time than the average person has and I am faced with that dillema every time I sit down to read the NY TIMES. And so I’ll end up reading the Week in Review because I do feel that they are the most objective that I come across. Or better still the Washington Post Review. An excellent paper too. But if you can pick up the actual wires online UPI etc. better still. As to good news programs, you’ll have to go to Public Television and watch the likes of the BBC or Lehrer news Hour if you want more than fluff. But I must say, if I see the NY POST in an office, although it’s a rag, it’s an entertaining and funny read. Kind of like the National Enquirer. Unfortunately some people don’t understand this. But it’s still better than years ago when Hearst made his fortunes selling newspapers full of stories that were complete fabrications. They just made them up out of thin air.

nebule's avatar

a good friend told me once…not to watch the news…
based on the fact that they tell you what they want you to hear
and that that stuff is generally not in your best interests
.......
I still watch the news.
but not religiously

wundayatta's avatar

It’s pretty easy to unslant slanted news, if you know the character of the slant. You adjust for it mentally. No news presentation is objective, and any pretense that it can be objective is a disservice to the audience. What reporters should do is present their opinions and biases as clearly as they know how, so that people can get a sense of how to adjust for their biases.

Perhaps the best way, though, is to get news from a variety of sources. You’ll find out more. You’ll get a number of perspectives, and you’ll have more information to create your own version of what happened.

SeventhSense's avatar

@SherlockPoems
You said
“OK then may I pose this question: How do we get journalism (back) into the media?”

People need to stop watching this crap like Fox. It’s that simple.
It would be better if it was all fluff with no “news”. At least then you know you’re tuning in for the Groundhog or the local parade or weather but nothing more. But they’re the pushers and we are the users. They give us our fix. We’re good citizens and we watch the “news” and now we’re “informed”.

Bagardbilla's avatar

Taking the $ out of news would be the ideal, but I don’t think that is going to happen anytime soon. I think at the end of the day it boils down to educating the populus. In high school we a seminar (required for all students) where we were given the tools to pick out biases in various POV’s as well as analysing ADs. It has stayed with me for over 2 decades now. It instilled in us to continusly look for the angle of the presenter.
There are many good sources of reporting, liberal and conservative. I try to read and question both… ie. NPR, Counterpunch.org, BBC, Independent/Guardian, DemocracyNow, Foreign Policy, the Economist, FarEastern Review, The News Hour on PBS… so on and so forth. Just to name a few off the top of my head.
Point is in a democracy the honourous is on the individual to educate oneself. With the Internet that has become very easy. In a capitalist society, wherever the individual chosses to flock the money will follow! and the pervayors of boobtube will soon die out! (I pray)! —sorry about the sp mistakes—

FrancisRude's avatar

I belong in this field and its really hard to answer this question.

I feel bad for my colleagues who are manipulated by the management’s political stand. But seriously, its hard to find fair, and balanced news now especially those media conglomerates.

I also have to agree with “yellow journalism” it does attract viewers somehow.

Allie's avatar

Yeah, to some degree. They may tell you the news, but mass media is really good setting agendas. Their goal is to sell papers/attract listeners/whatever. Dramatic news tends to do that more easily than average news.
How to Watch TV News

charliecompany34's avatar

FOX news has tarnished good journalism.

gooch's avatar

I think it 90% propaganda. 10% edited news

marinelife's avatar

Fox News certainly is.

MooKoo's avatar

It used to be about the news, but now I think it’s more or less a propaganda thing to be honest. I’m not really sure how to explain it, but that’s how I feel I guess, I kinda’ don’t pay too much attention to it really anymore.

Judi's avatar

I used to love MSNBC, but it seems to me that lately they are cocky and rude. I have been drifting towards CNN because they just seem to have more manners. If I am going to choose what I watch I am not going to watch Jerry springer style news even if they present my point of view. CNN seems to be trying to stay more pure to the goal of “Presenting News” and also the newscasters don’t seem to be one giant ego, pushing themselves instead of the news. I Hate Contessa Brewer and that Blond chick who never lets anyone finish an answer!

cookieman's avatar

I read this about Jim Lehrer here:

Just straight-forward, no nonsense news. Probably the closest we have to a Walter Cronkite type anchor every night. It’s refreshing to just turn on the news and get the news.

I’ve never listened to/watched him. What do you guys think?

TheKNYHT's avatar

Generally speaking in broad strokes, I find it interesting that the major news media CEO’s all belong to the CFR (Council on Foreign Relations) and their agenda is to bring about a political shift from individual nation states into a more homogenized global government, and thus the propaganda in news, whether TV, newspapers, radio, etc is slanted towards the mentality of globalism, painting it in a good light, and downplaying anything that promotes and reinforces the idea of nationalism and seperate, sovereign states.
Yet, its not what they tell us that’s as relevant as what they DON’T tell us.
That’s why I depend on seperate news sources, apart from the mainstream media.

YARNLADY's avatar

The best way to determine the answer to your question in our everyday life is to use as many different news sources as we can. If we get all our news from a single source, we have no way to judge. By checking several sources, TV, computer, newspaper, and such, we can arrive at an overall view, one more likely to be closer to reality.

laureth's avatar

I have to agree with @Yarnlady here, especially if the news net we cast is wide and deep, incorporating the news from the Left and Right as well as different countries’ perspectives. Binocular vision does no good if it’s only two ClearChannel outlets.

mamabeverley's avatar

Much of the news is propaganda. It’s like when the price of oil starts to fall…There is always news in the following days that a pipeline has been bombed. Then the price shoots back up. Hello, where are the pictures?? There are a ton of people on the planet with camera phones and not one picture? And please don’t going saying poor countries don’t have them. Even if they don’t, there are Americans everywhere. My hubby has had job offers all over the planet, so I know others have too.

benjaminlevi's avatar

@SherlockPoems The way to get journalism back in the media would be to make them no longer financially defendant on corporations for advertising. Obviously, they are not going to bite the hand that feeds them, so the news will reflect what the financier wants to be shown. If you want anything other than a pro-corporate message you need to support (pay for) independent community media (as in, free from all corporate money and control)

SherlockPoems's avatar

@benjaminlevi is anything or anyone ever free from all money (corporate or otherwise) or control? Is money the highest power? – Once there was tower of Babel – and it crumbled perhaps that is what is happening in the USA? The dollar tower crumbles leaving what? What then is the highest power?

CMaz's avatar

“journalism has a biased slant towards an editorial posture dictated by station management.”

That pretty much sums it up.

Been doing it for over 20 years and as much a reporter tries to be true to the story. It comes down to how the community feels about the subject matter and what the sponsors are comfortable with.
Station Managers go out, hobnobbing with the advertisers and community leaders. They voice their opinion as to what they like and don’t like. What they don’t like or don’t like to hear. Does not make it to air.
So it is better to give a quick fix, fluff it up and move on. Today’s news story will be yesterdays old news. It is best to keep it that way.
That is why very big issues (price of oil, homosexuality, animal rights, ect.) never really make it to prime time. Sometimes it will be some vague, reconstituted story.
You will not do anything to disrupt you scoring when sweeps week comes along. A highly controversial news story would be counter productive to that. No one really wants the whole truth any way.

SherlockPoems's avatar

@ChazMaz sad commentary on the ‘news media’ and our society. “No one really wants the whole truth any way.” Not the words I would expect to see from a reporter. What you are talking about is ‘yellow journalism’... well not journalism at all.

CMaz's avatar

See it as what you wish. It is what makes the globe spin.

captainshalfunit's avatar

In my humble opinion and mine alone, it is my feeling that news is more propaganda, especially the networks, CBS, ABC and NBC. We only listen to Fox News and, yes, I agree Fox News has a conservative slant. I am a conservative and proud to be and don’t want to antagonize anyone with that fact. I also feel Fox News really does report both sides and the talk shows always have an open invitation to conservatives/liberals to defend their position. It absolutely amazes me of the ones who refuse to face commentators like Bill O’Reilly, Glenn Beck or Shawn Hannity because hard questions are going to be asked and “spin answers” aren’t tolerated. They press until the question is answered. In my opinion only.

Rozee's avatar

American journalism is alive and well…the American people have the greatest access to news in the history of mass media…we can search any topic in minutes…take what we want from as many different sources as are in existance…pick what makes sense and dump the rest…we can pout about the way the message is delivered…or the messenger…but, if we can’t find the answers….we should not blame the press. It is not the responsibility of the news reporters to guarantee the truth…all they can do is tell you what they believe the truth to be…and that truth can be shifting at the speed of light…

Of course there is at least one major problem about this philosophy…it takes the heart of a news reporter to want to do all that digging…and, as we all know…they are all a bunch of corporate owned propagnada mongers…or maybe not.

SherlockPoems's avatar

@Rozee “It is not the responsibility of the news reporters to guarantee the truth…all they can do is tell you what they believe the truth to be” No, no, no! This is what is known as ‘yellow journalism’. You see it IS the responsibility of the journalist to be objective and seek the truth.

CMaz's avatar

“You see it IS the responsibility of the journalist to be objective and seek the truth.”

Very true! But, if they want it to be aired or printed they better play by the rules.
Those rules come from the advertisers and corporate heads that want viewers.
Also, do not want to piss off the FCC and the Government.

SherlockPoems's avatar

@ChazMaz I hope you don’t think that is acceptable to a journalist. An actor – definitely. But journalism has standards of ethics… or does it?

CMaz's avatar

Acceptable? Sometimes, especially when your ego and paycheck get in the way.

Journalism does have standards of ethics. In most cases all is good. But, sometime you have to go off roading to get a story. If it conflicts with the feelings of the owner.
Just like in the case of Fluther deciding what we can and cant say. Especially about the establishment. You either clean it up, or move on.

News is not free. Publishers and broadcasters go to great expense to share your story. If it offends them or their sponsors. Or in some cases the Government gets on their butt.
The story gets cut, or fluffed up.

SherlockPoems's avatar

@ChazMaz And here I was thinking the world was black and white and you tell me it is yellow! sigh.

Rozee's avatar

@SherlockPoems I agree with you in a sense about truthfulness and responsibility to report the facts and nothing but the facts. However, I have attended political meetings covered by different reporters and the next day read their reports. Not only did what the two reports write contradict each other, but I had a very different take on some of what was said compared to what was reported.

I guess the truth depends as much on where you sit as where you stand when it comes to what you see and hear. I did not mean to imply journalist deliberately avoid reporting the truth, but rather that one person’s truth may not be another person’s truth. The truthfulness test is not always easily administered.

SherlockPoems's avatar

@Rozee “The truthfulness test is not always easily administered.” I quite agree but that has little to do with the ‘objectivity’ that is to be maintained by Journalists who are ethically bound. They are never to ‘take sides’... it is not an ‘editorial’ I am discussing rather the reporting of the NEWS… let the reader or viewers choose from among the facts what is truth. Well anyway, that is supposed to be the discipline.

Rozee's avatar

@SherlockPoems Yes, objectivity is the goal and not just in journalism but in all research. That does not mean that there are not many factors that influence perception. Researchers and reporters see what they are prepared to see; make sense of what they learn based on what they already know; trust what they have reason to believe is true because of circumstances or history. That is how two competent researcher or reporters can experience the same event and have very different interpretations of events. The reason for reading or listening to more than one voice is to learn what people with different vantage points report.

SherlockPoems's avatar

@Rozee “The reason for reading or listening to more than one voice is to learn what people with different vantage points report.”... I quite agree and would feel much more comfortable if not for the fact that the major networks have the same “leaning” or bias. I think we all agree the bias is there… and that is what I find worrisome.
...often the so called ‘journalists’ MAKE the news rather than REPORT the news… I won’t even get into the aspect that NEWS is what is ‘breaking’ or ‘happening’... not a repeat of what happened last week or yesterday – for THAT is history and not news.
I’m fully aware that the ‘journalists’ pick and choose what they deem ‘newsworthy’... that (to me) is sufficient slant without editorializing. n’est pas?

Rozee's avatar

@SherlockPoems Just curious, what sources do you go to for news? Who do you trust?

I agree that the there is a place for editorializing and that is not the front page of the newspaper or the lead story in a news broadcast. The important thing is that we as consumers of information are able to recognize the slant of the news and we are able to correct for the leaning. It really is a joyful passtime to tease out the facts after reading, hearing, or watching the reports.

CMaz's avatar

“The important thing is that we as consumers of information are able to recognize the slant of the news and we are able to correct for the leaning.”

As long as over glamorized marketing exists. And, we accept it, and we do.
We become convoluted as to what is “the slant of the news.”

YOU, might be able to correct for the learning. Or you think you are. But, many (too many) do not see the difference. They are willing to pay for entertainment. Just give me that feely good feeling.
Businesses make billions of dollars every year to convince you of something that is not “really” what it is. That money come from our pockets, not through force but because we want to believe it, and there for want to have it.

That cancels out what you might learn.

rwiedeman's avatar

Journalism has always been about entertainment. This is nothing new; we just do it faster now.

CMaz's avatar

“Journalism has always been about entertainment”

I will sort of agree with you. There was a time when information meant life or death.
It was taken serious. It was a privilege to get information and to get it quickly. As opposed to getting it a week or two or a month or a year after something happened or was going to happen.

It has become mundane, over glamorized and over bloated. Exploited from what it was originally intended.
Atrophying into nothing more then… You got that right!
Entertainment.

NewZen's avatar

Fox seems to be quite fair, and balanced.

Judi's avatar

what happened to old Zen?

nebule's avatar

gone where?

SABOTEUR's avatar

I tend to agree that most network and cable news seems to promote an agenda.

Local news, on the other hand, seems to stick pretty closely you the script.

laureth's avatar

Local news is (at least in any town I’ve ever seen it) about things like shootings, burglaries, murders, the weather, sports, and more shootings. While it might be “news,” none of it (except maybe the weather and the occasional product recall) affects my life, and none of it (at all) is what I need to know to be an informed citizen. (In fact, local news even seems to preferentially deliver stories with a high fear factor, implying that the world is scarier than it really is. I’ve gone to Detroit numerous times without being mugged or shot, but to hear the news, you’d think that was impossible.)

SABOTEUR's avatar

@laureth: I agree with everything you’ve said. So, to hear news that may affect your life you must tune to other news sources. The trouble with network news and the cable news programs is that unless you’re already somewhat informed, you’ll have difficulty discerning the truth from slant.

laureth's avatar

Agreed. That’s why people have to (is there a gender-neutral form of “man up?”) “person up” and do some research. Inform themselves! Be sure it’s truth that they’re spouting.

Ron_C's avatar

News programs disappeared when networks decided that the evening news should become a profit center and part of the entertainment division.

I get my news from Comedy Central. They tell the same stories but add truth to put irony in the joke.

JessK's avatar

We’re human, and as such, bias can never be entirely avoided.

laureth's avatar

There’s such a thing as unavoidable bias, and then there’s such a thing as tilting reality on its side on purpose.

JessK's avatar

@laureth Entirely true.

Ron_C's avatar

Some news organizations are pure hype like Fox. The other problem is the journalists are a shrinking occupational group. With the Internet, anyone can comment or even break news stories. Journalists tend to simply quote sources to get the article published as soon as possible and seldom have the resources to check the truth of the statements.

Ironically there is so much information available that we are overloaded and ill informed. How else could you explain the Tea Party and poor and middle income people voting for Republicans?

Crashsequence2012's avatar

“The Daily Show” and it’s ilk.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

The News Media can tell you anything they want and portray it as the truth. Read this
I’ll wait right here.

Now turn off your fucking TV.

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