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EDITORIAL: 24/7 News harms value of journalism

Invites attacks over journalistic integrity

The advent of the 24-hour news cycle seemed like a development perfectly synced with America’s historical values.

An informed populace is critical to the health of a democracy. Any system in which full government power starts and stops with the vote of each individual citizens survives on the knowledgeability of each one of those citizens.

The news airing everywhere, at all times appeared tailor-made to democracy. It would be a way to keep topical events at the forefront of our minds, creating informed voters ready to tackle the pressing issues mounting on top of an ever-complexing future.

Unfortunately, the unmissable nature of modern news did the opposite of this expectation, creating an atmosphere of misinformation, exaggeration and one with a general lack of journalistic integrity. 

While it may now seem an ingrained aspect of American culture, the 24-hour news cycle is relatively new. CNN was not founded until 1980, becoming the first network to run non-stop in doing so.

It was not until 1996 that Fox News debuted, and it truly mastered television news in the 24/7-news world.

The New York Times article published shortly after the network's premiere, on Oct. 7, 1996, highlighted early fears that the network would reflect its founder Rupert Murdoch's political views.

“Their turf war has deflected attention, for now, from a question about substance that has loomed over the proposed Fox News Channel since it was announced eight months ago: Will FNC be a vehicle for expressing Mr. Murdoch's conservative political opinions?” the article stated.

The answer would turn out to be a resounding yes. No matter your personal political views, it must be conceded that Fox News has been historically notable for possessing a conservative slant, with much of its programming turning out to be conjecture, discourse and speculation rather than pragmatically straight-lined and informative. It focused less on unadulterated reporting, and more on discussion and entertainment.

In 2002, Fox News had surpassed long-enduring CNN as the highest-ranked cable news network. The network’s focus on speculation had paid major dividends.

The other networks soon wised up to this unsettling fact: Sensation sold. CNN and MSNBC quickly filled the counterweight role, becoming Left-leaning in an attempt to balance out Fox News and attract Left-leaning viewers.

The entire idea of news stations holding a bias negates the principle of what they do. Journalism is intended to dispense facts — whether they be statistics, quotes or events — into the public arena, where the masses determine how to handle them. 

But running non-stop forced networks to grab for stories, or fill the airtime in other ways, turning them into narrative machines that took stories and sensationalized them with their slant of choice. What would be a small story 40 years ago now grabs the nation by its throat.

These national networks each have heavy viewership. The issue is that these stations generally cover very macro events, things that are either so appalling that everyone will tune in or genuinely affect the nation as a whole. When this happens, smaller, community-based events are drowned out from our conscience as well, events that may actually impact us more than a bill sent through Washington D.C. 

Negative news receives a lot more views, clicks and shares than good news does. As a result, media companies obsess over tragic events and blow them far out of proportion, painting a bleaker picture of reality than what really exists, which causes unnecessary psychological distress for viewers.

Compounding all of these issues are attacks on the press. When the evening news was our only source of information, and the stories were intensely revised to showcase only the facts, attacks against the press — mainly by politicians — were a fundamental threat to the stability of our nation.

With the advent of the modern, politically biased media, these attacks gained legitimacy, which puts all news networks at risk — even the stations with integrity.

Political attacks against the press are not new, and in fact became more commonplace during the turn of the 21st century, congruent with the time that 24/7 news strengthened its hold on the national conscience. Mark Fabiani, Al Gore’s communications director for his 2000 presidential campaign, said “Fox has been an avowed enemy of the Gore campaign throughout the election,” during the campaign

Of course, current President Donald J. Trump is also well-known for his attacks on the media.

It is easy to blame politicians like Gore and Trump as irresponsible for their attacks, but we cannot be surprised when a politician gets aggressive against what they perceive as unfair reporting.

In normal times, attacking journalism would be a big issue for any person in political power, but the media invited such attacks when they diverged from factual reporting. An unfortunate truth nowadays is that, rather than inform, the media now views it as their responsibility not only to tell us what the facts are, but also how we interpret them.

Luckily, for those interested in fact and not simply confirming previously held beliefs, there are certain methods of reading unfiltered news. There are numerous articles that detail which sources are not politically charged, and in order to keep our minds level during these turbulent times of misinformation, it may be worth it to read one of them.


The Daily Targum's editorials represent the views of the majority   of the 151st editorial board. Columns, cartoons and letters  do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or  its staff

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