Did you know CNN publishes a Fear and Greed Index? That this is a regular thing?
Hang on. Let me start again.
The first step towards media and information literacy in 2015 is to stop watching American tv news. Seriously. TV news has become the real life version of what the classic 1976 satire Network only fantasized about, a barkingly mad and bad excrescence of mock journalism, some terrifying new media entity beyond self-parody.
While some have become anxious about the poor information one can sometimes find on the web, tv news has raced past the worst Wikipedia glitches and plunged into an abyss of its own making. The story of the rise of the internet as a cultural touchstone has the fall of American tv news as its grim parallel.
A sign of this truth is how easy to find hilarious examples of CNN, MSNBC, or especially Fox “News” emitting embarrassing stories and moments. In fact, let’s just skip Fox for now, since they’re clearly partisan and openly bonkers. Their leaders and staff are no doubt busily preparing to become the war-happy government news channel for that Starship Troopers movie. Let’s set aside MSNBC as well, since they are also partisan, and if more intelligent than Fox (a very low bar indeed) they are relatively marginal.
No, let’s look instead at CNN, the mainstream cable news outfit. The leading news channel for America in our times. CNN, the respectable, putatively neutral one. The current events video feed we find in public spaces. Just think about that reputation for a moment, that CNN is something like our tv news of record, and realize how far we’ve fallen.
We could start with CNN’s Headline News branch. The experience of sitting and watching Headline News for a while is a bit like listening to a meth-addled ADHD sufferer screaming into a kaleidoscope, while ragged copies of People magazine and Sports Illustrated get hurled past our faces. As Wikipedia puts it,
Since 2005… its format has increasingly shifted to long-form tabloid-, opinion-, crime-, and entertainment news-related programming.
Speaking of which, what’s the leading story on Headline News today? Of all possible events on Earth, which one do they deem to be of vital, international importance? What topic will absorb scant journalistic resources and very precious air time?
COMPLETE COVERAGE OF THE DR. CONRAD MURRAY TRIAL
HLN is America’s television destination for coverage of the trial of Dr. Conrad Murray, the man accused of causing the death of Michael Jackson. HLN’s deep bench of talent provides a complete view of events in and around the Los Angeles Superior Court, as well as a comprehensive exploration into the lives of the Jackson family and Murray.
No, this is far too easy. Let’s put Headline News to one side for now, and go for the serious part of CNN, its relatively sober and thoughtful central channel.
Do you remember the time when one of their hosts wondered if supernatural forces or a black hole ate a missing jetliner? Or when said host then took to tweeting and retweeting conspiracy theories as further “explanation”? Continue reading