Who Do You Trust for News? – or ‘Popular News vs. Accurate News’

Author: July 8, 2011 7:29 am

After Rupert Murdoch’s newspaper News of the World hacked into cell phones to eavesdrop on messages and Murdoch’s newspaper The Wall Street Journal omitting this news article, we are left to ask who can we turn to for accurate news reporting?

CNN uses the tag, “The Most Trusted Name in News” and Fox News uses the tag, “Fair and Balanced”.  Before cable 24/7 news, networks aired news broadcasts as an informational driven show.  But cable news are ratings driven.  Being reliant upon ratings, cable news shows compete for breaking news and are less concerned about accuracy.

News broadcasts were originally public service announcements, educating the public of world and local events.  In the early 1900’s, the first non-print news came in the form of newsreels, which were in the form of short documentary films and were aired via the movie distribution network.  Newsreels transformed into radio broadcasts in 1920 and centered around preliminary election results, but the “modern day” television news shows began in 1928 with daily ten-minute news briefs.  By 1940, NBC produced regularly aired, 30-minute news shows.  There was uniformity in their format.  News analysts, reporters, and correspondents gathered information, prepared stories, and produced shows which informed the public about local, state, national, and world events.  They were designed to be informative, and thus did not have a need to sensationalize for ratings.


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Ted Turner launched Cable News Network (CNN) in 1980 to not only offer a 24/7 news show cycle, but also to be able to expand on stories.  A companion channel CNN2 was established to fit the 30-minute broadcast format in a repeating fashion in 1982.  In February 1996, Fox News was launched by Rupert Murdoch and former US Republican Party political strategist Roger Ailes under the reasoning to satiate the appetite for news – particularly news that explains how it effects people.  Fox News placed heavy emphasis on visual presentation and utilized colorful and attention grabbing tags in order to compete through ratings.  Their news stories were designed to have an obvious conservative slant, as opposed to ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, and CNN2 who produced stories to be informative.  Then in July 1996, MSNBC came on the scene to promote NBC’s news sources.

It didn’t take long for the three cable news channels to compete for ratings, each trying to establish their niche which separates them from the others.  Fox News continued to promote their conservative opinionated news coverage.  In 2001, MSNBC tried to emulate Fox News’ formula of opinionated news shows, countering Fox News’ conservative slant.  Leading up to the 2008 elections, CNN devoted much of their air time to political coverage, including hosting political debates.  This proved to be CNN’s highest ratings and they maintained their working formula of breaking news coverage, with the emphasis on the “old style” of news broadcasting, being informative, not sensational.

The rating war took it’s toll on news journalism.  Not only did ABC, NBC, and CBS suffer viewership, but the rating-driven drive for breaking news coverage sometimes sacrificed accuracy.  Ratings became equated with power and influence and opinionated news dominated the ratings.  With Fox News, the more sensational and opinionated news shows resulted in higher ratings.

But ratings are simply measuring the popularity of these channels and shows, not accuracy or reliability.  When turning on a news broadcast, is it for factual coverage of events or for entertainment?  Does society benefit more from accuracy or from sensationalism?  When sensationalism and popularity wins out, which form of information is being used to educate children and students?  And when we form our opinions based upon the news coverage we choose to subject ourselves to, are our beliefs based on accurate facts or on sensationalized sound bytes?

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6 Comments

  • I believe I get more truth from Link TV, Democracy Now, AlJeezra, and Free Speech TV. Truth is hard to find. Otherwise, I’d rather watch Sponge Bob!

    • Have been watching Al Jeezra for several months now and have recently discovered RT through an add-on in my XBMC media center. The former has almost all former BBC reporters…while RT has American reporters with some BBC reporters thrown in.

      Having 20 years in commercial broadcasting with about five of that in the news-talk format…I got so tired of hearing what American corporations wanted us to hear…rather than hearing information from all over the world from non American sources. Doing this…I find that I get a more non-biased slant that reminds me of CBS news during the 1960’s rather than the “Survivor”-type news you hear from the US entertainment bureaus.

  • I really don’t trust any of them. I mostly do my own research on things, with a focus on concrete factual evidence. I still watch some news on occasion, but recently it’s mostly been Jon Stewart and Bill Maher, because I might as well have a few laughs since nothing on television is really reliable anyways.

    • I agree. I grew up reading a couple of different newspapers per day. They all had a different slant on things.

      If I was trying to find out about legislation, State or Federal, I found out quickly to call the local office and ask for a copy of the bill (that is part of their job, BTW, or used to be.

      Once the Library of Congress went online, I check there to see specifics about the bills, and the people behind them.

      I trust very few “news” outlets today. And definitely none of the talking heads. They are motivated by ratings and nothing else. Ratings go up when you say stuff that makes people angry. Whether it’s true or not. I don’t watch TV, which helps, I guess.

  • IMHO, it started long before Fox News, MSNBC, and CNN. It was a gimmick, still being used today, started by the “printed news”. Before, and after, the flooding of these News(?)shows, most newspapers had a political slant to their news. All one had to do was go to the editorial page, read the stories, look at the editorial cartoons and you knew right away where they stood and WHO BACKED THEM!
    We had a few daily newspapers to choose from and you could tell whether a person was progressive or conservative just by which paper they chose to have delivered to their homes. People read and watch the news they want to hear. It gives them validation!
    Now, we have the internet and various sites that aren’t any better than these sensationlistic “News Shows”. They’re just not as flamboyant!
    I, myself, have that need for validation. We all do. It’s an inheriant human quality in all of us, just like greed, hate, need for power etal. The problem w/that validation is that too often, it blinds the person, who thinks they are “right about everything” to a one sided orgasm. It shuts down a person’s ability to think and understand rationally for that instant gratification.

    • “People read and watch the news they want to hear. ”

      I don’t. I listen, or try to, to most online outlets (I don’t watch TV). I grew up reading a few different papers every day. They all had different views on what was happening.

      One of the criteria that I have is to ask “Is there proof of this?” If someone does not cite evidence, I try not to pay attention to that view.

      I read just about everything, though. And filter it. I read the comments on the articles that I’ve read. The majority of commenter’s seem to have no grasp on what is fact and what is opinion. They are two very different things.

      I read everything and try to think for myself.

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