Most of the people I talk with agree that the Main Stream Media has become universally bad. Alright, most describe it as useless.
During the Sharp fire, for example. The media reported streets that were being evacuated, but never once bothered to look at a map while writing the text or reporting on the fire.
Instead of saying something simple like “The Mandatory evacuation area is all streets along East Canyon extending South of Orchard. These streets include Mt Mahogany, Slippery Elm, Buckthorn, and Mojave Scenic. Voluntary Evacuations extend North of Orchard to Lausanne Drive, The Portion of Chaumont East to Basel Dr and West to Orchard, and the portion of Summit Dr North to Easter Dr.”
This would have made it very clear to the people of town what area was involved and the extent of the area. All It would have taken was a journalist looking at Google Maps. OR actually asking an information officer at the command post to point out the area.
I suppose that the ability to construct a cogent sentence might have helped…
Instead what we got was a confused mess of street names and directions that mislead people far North of the Evacuation zones (Mandatory and Voluntary) to believe that fire was sweeping toward them and they were going to die!
In other words… PANIC People PANIC NOW!
The really sad part is that not only was the Medias’ coverage virtually useless to the local residents who were trying to comply with the orders, the coverage panicked people who have vacation or retirement homes throughout the town but who don’t live in the town.
So in the midst of packing, and seeing to the elders who needed help evacuating, and securing the homes of neighbors on vacation and weekend residents, the full time residents were also answering the phones giving people the real un-panicked rational version that we got when we asked a hotshot crew or sheriff as they passed by.
A story, that was in fact far more calm and coherent.
Yes, we are probably going to order an evacuation. No we don’t think the homes are in all that much danger. We’re concerned that with the narrow streets, plus our moving heavy equipment up here that if the winds kick up & the fire spreads, we wouldn’t be able to get the residents and ourselves out without people getting hurt. There are simply too many variables for us to feel comfortable having the fire this close to occupied homes.
As always there were 1 or 2 people that stayed regardless of the mandatory nature of the evacuation request.
Not once did the media say anything useful like “The evacuation is for your safety.” or ask the question of one of the people not evacuating “What is your plan if the fire should get below you, cutting off your only route of escape?”
The media failed to look at the human interest stories like the neighbors checking on the elderly and making sure that they weren’t forgotten or the residents of the town opening their homes to many of the evacuees.
Another angle of the story would have been to ask the fire and police what they thought of the residents orderly evacuation. This would have provided an opportunity for the Firefighters to speak about the importance of having an emergency plan. It would have allowed the police an opportunity to explain what their role is after an evacuation. For example that they stay and protect the empty neighborhoods.
I’m not a journalist but these are all useful points that could have been made instead of “FIRE OMG FIRE OMG FIRE PANIC!”
It’s not just the fire, I use this as an example because it’s fresh in my mind and I have direct knowledge of it.
You can see evidence of “Spin” and bad reporting or fact checking all the time. Compare the reporting of an event in Germany from a US news source and then read about the same event in a German news source. (Many German news sources have well written English versions.)
Sometime the difference is startling.
US Media: “Merkel SLAMS Greece over finances”
German Media: “Merkel spoke firmly with Greek officials about their financial plan”
I read those two sentences as very different. In reading the full article Merkel was annoyed with the vagueness of parts of a report the Greek banking officials presented, but she wasn’t pounding her shoe on the conference table.
Not that Germans commonly do that, it’s more of a communist Russian thing. (If you don’t get it, look up Nikita Khruschev and the quote “We will bury you”.)
Recently, we’ve seen too many examples to count of what my high school English and History teachers called “Yellow Journalism” around the issues of guns and gun control in America.
To the Wikipedia definition I would add a specific paragraph about media affecting national politics by “Spinning” reports which are full of confabulations then later conflating those same reports to control or influence public opinion.
Many people have become so fed up with the media in general that they’re not watching the news.
Some people have gone so far as to turn off their cable and satellite. Many more people no longer read the newspapers. These groups rely instead on the information that they obtain from Google News, and other online media sources.
This lack of readership, or viewership appears to cycle back upon itself causing ever more sensational headlines and a “News” media that is skewed far more toward entertainment than toward providing facts.
Which leads to more people turning away from the Main Stream Media in all it’s forms, leading to more sensational, salacious headlines in 72 point type.
I’ve often thought about the humorous aspects of a newspaper that kept increasing the headline type size until eventually they only had one letter per page and all meaning was lost. Oddly, it didn’t have to go that far for all meaning to be lost. All it took was a texting generation. (I hart u y u no hart me)
Reading about the LAUSD deployment of iPads in the schools, I cringe in anticipation of the reporting and writing style in a decade or so. I’ll be writing a blog about that soon.
Turning to the internet isn’t the best choice either… As I’ve written previously, any idiot can post something to a blog. Case in point… the blog you’re reading right now.
This blog is a purely entertainment, opinion driven, bit of writing. It’s not in any way a proper news source, thankfully it’s not widely read given some of the typos I’ve failed to notice.
Were I to write news articles I’d probably never see them published because they’d be pretty dry. The details of a water project only rarely become salacious, it usually takes a body being uncovered by a work crew. Even then, how you describe such a discovery can be titillating or simply factual.
The same pressure to garner attention is present in internet news sources. It’s all driven by the same thing… Money.
Look at the side columns of a web page or the annoying floaters you see on almost any article you click on and it’s about advertising. And therefore about enticing the reader to remain on a web page long enough to see the ads.
This driving force hasn’t changed since the beginning of newspapers.
What has changed is the quality of the writing and reporting.
The change has not been for the better.