News should not be entertainment

Jenna Staul

It’s probably not in my best interest to offend, criticize of or otherwise spite potential future employers, especially with the field of journalism being so competitive. But at the risk of jeopardizing employment opportunities – and possibly having to spend a few vexing extra years living under my parent’s roof – I’m going to get this off my chest.

Cable news and mainstream broadcast journalism, as we know them, are horrible.

This dawned on me when I saw a recent Time magazine cover featuring Rupert Murdoch, the poster boy for media consolidation. As the billionaire tycoon and patriarch to the Fox News Channel smugly gazed at me, I couldn’t help but think what a sorry and profoundly dismaying state cable news finds itself in.

It’s bad enough that a scant five major corporations own nearly all news media outlets in this country, but it’s that very lack of variety that is causing such shoddy reporting to become standard.

Cable news networks have the unenviable task of competing with entertainment-oriented channels for television ratings, but the news in its purest form likely wouldn’t pull viewers away from an episode of “Grey’s Anatomy.” So what is a ratings-hungry news channel to do in order to woo audiences and advertisers alike to its airwaves?

Easy: Make the news entertainment.

It seems entertainment trumps relevance in the realm of cable news. Missing persons and murder stories play in the national news media like soap operas, with each breaking report acting as the latest installment in a titillating narrative. In reality, these cases are far from unique or extraordinary; they are, disturbingly, quite common, yet a select few are exploited for the sake of sensationalism by the national news media.

One would think that with three major cable networks airing nothing but news, current events and social commentary 24 hours a day, some amount of variety or diversity would be achieved in the reports featured. Yet it disappointingly seems as though the same accounts are regurgitated from one network to the next, as each fixates on a handful of stories and painfully scrutinizes the most insignificant details. At times, this narrow coverage comes at the expense of equally important stories that fall through the cracks and never receive the spotlight they need.

Prime time in cable news perhaps best encompasses just how deplorable the medium is as a whole. Often, explosive hosts bring confrontation to the “news,” turning it into little more than bickering between left- and right-wing talking heads.

Cable news needs a makeover.

It needs to regain a sense of dignity. It needs to quit pandering irrelevant, perversely amusing stories to the public in exchange for ratings. It needs to expand its coverage – there’s a big world out there, and cable news certainly has the time to cover it.

Most importantly, news shouldn’t have to compete with “Grey’s Anatomy” – that just defeats its purpose.

In the meantime, Rupert Murdoch will become a little richer, cable news networks will give someone else an undue 15 minutes of fame, and the public will have to settle for luridness in place of news.

Jenna Staul is a sophomore journalism major and a columnist for the Summer Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].