New Media Is Overly Dramatic
In the 21st Century, the way the American public receives information is changing at a startling rate. While print and televised media were once the only viable options for accessing news, the advent of the Internet has forced a change. As a result, lower–tech media has devolved into a hodgepodge of fluff pieces and yellow journalism — a trend which can only harm and skew the information its viewers are receiving.
This overall shift on the part of the media dilutes serious news stories into pithy little segments with very little real subject matter. To make matters worse, this phenomenon — once only present in local news stations — has come to the national level. Serious news stations such as CNN and MSNBC produce such droll segments as “15 Minutes of Fame” and “The Weekly Rock Star,” which pick apart full news segments into easily digestible, gossipy tidbits or “blurbs.” With the combination of speculation and actual information that results from these sometimes trivial productions, what happens is that these legitimate news stations end up only furthering confusion and derision. More and more news networks promote hour–long gossip segments which most closely resemble the morning talk shows of entertainment networks, because this lighter material is simply more appealing to a larger portion of our drama–obsessed American society. As the media is coming to depend increasingly on blurbs, the blurbs themselves become either more unimportant or more fear–mongering and politically manipulative.
Another problem with this style of news is that it lends more weight to its reporters’ opinions than to actual fact. When the focus shifts towards a stronger, more faithful viewership, news sources will politicize their supposedly neutral stories. FOX News, whose motto is “Fair and Balanced,” regularly and notoriously promotes right–wing viewpoints and fear–insinuating comments, with an unbalanced ratio of something like one liberal correspondent for every five conservative ones. The alternative, sadly, is not much better; MSNBC has followed suit in a leftwards direction with only one conservative for every three liberal correspondents. This imbalance is only perpetuated by the blurb format, where the American viewership is given buzz words by their chosen political party and as a result, only become less knowledgeable and, depending on the subject matter, more fearful. Overall, this has the effect of feeding a media culture of opinion and fear.
The result is that news channels dole out heavy loads of fear matched by very little relevant information. This culture is seen most notably in the myriad of “wars” perpetuated by the networks, especially FOX, which touts conflicts like the “War on Christmas,” “War on Chocolate Milk,” and “War on Potatoes.” They’re not alone — MSNBC’s Dateline has been accused multiple times of creating false panics, revolving around such sordid subjects as poison vaccines and rampant satanic worship. Between fears about terrorists, diseases and apparently non–chocolate milk, there’s plenty of fodder for this media fire. Consider the 2010 “birther crisis,” which stemmed from a ludicrous rumor spread and reinforced by the media. Twenty years ago, this would have been excused as conspiracy, yet it is now taken as gospel by many Americans — a fearful pattern which only leads to more mistrust and misinformation.
It has long been said that “fear sells papers,” but what if the commercial interests of a media conglomerate interfere with the helpfulness or the very validity of their work? In the face of staunch competition from the Internet, lower–tech forms of press need more than ever to prove their quality and relevance. After all, any form of media can strike fear in the populace. Media, arguably the most influential force affecting the economy, government and culture, needs to promote a straightforward, honest stance on modern life and current issues.