Ever since the earthquake and tsunami hit I've been watching the coverage from various sources, both online and on television. I rarely watch TV, especially for news, and the crap that passes for coverage on American network and cable news is appalling when you compare it with international sources. Before I could find the cable station with straight from Japan coverage, I had to wade through an embarrassment of faux-journalism that was painful to watch.
First of all, it has never been more obvious that the talking heads on television are not journalists but merely actors paid to read lines written by someone else. They're so used to handing off the story of the day to whatever propaganda spouting figure the network has provided for them that they are helpless when it comes to any in depth reporting done on the fly.
They fumble, stumble, and end up repeating inane phrases over and over again, as they desperately try and pass the story off to the expert who isn't there because there's no party line to push when it's a tragedy that happens somewhere else.
Give them a few days. I'm sure the experts will show up soon to promote more oil drilling in our backyards and less regulations in order to free up the supplies. How can the Corporate Borg resist such a natural disaster opportunity to promote their slash, burn, and get stinking rich policies?
But until then there's always "the man/woman on the street" who is asked how they feel so they can blather on in mindless fashion like some idiot wind-up toy until they're mercifully cut off for yet another commercial. And when the talking heads return after a slew of totally inappropriate perky ads, there's always a near feeding frenzy over some poor unfortunate fool who claims a friend of a friend of a cousin three times removed who knows someone who may have been in Japan AT THE VERY MOMENT THE DISASTER HIT!
All this pales when measured against the bigger shame, and that is how the news actors, when they finally get their new scripts and no longer have to try and improvise, talk down to the viewers. They know that most of their audience probably consists of knuckle-draggers and geriatric viewers who haven't quite figured out that new-fangled internet thing so they're forced to watch TV News. They know their audience's knowledge of Science probably came from visiting the Creation Museum, and watching the Jesus was an Alien channel that ignores any history older than 6000 years.
They know they have to explain the simplest concepts such as what is an earthquake and did god do it or is it more of that global warming (snicker snicker) nonsense? If they don't simplify it to barely breathing level, they know their audience will go back to watching Jesus's spaceship land on the pyramids, or some gossip station that talks breathlessly of people they've neve met but knos more about than members of their own families.
I joke but I was shocked at how simple the concepts were that they're forced to explain to what is probably the most uneducated and unsophisticaed audience on the planet. "There are two kinds of earthquakes; shallow ones and deep ones." It's obvious they're assuming their audience slept through the third grade, and they're probably right.
Meanwhile, online you can get live coverage with real experts who actually study earthquakes, who know something about tsunamis other than surfing jokes, who have no agenda to push other than letting you know the facts of what happened. You have journalists on the ground following leads such as nuclear plants that are about to explode, instead of American TV who uses the potential tragedy as an opportunity to promote coal mining and oil drilling and only covers the nuclear plant by saying horrid things like "the Japanese have a lot more reason than we do to fear nukes." Seriously. This came out of the mouth of an American news actor.
What is lost in all this simplistic reporting of monumental events is that when you have a news source such as Al-Jazeera English ,the Guardian, the BBC, and online blogs that carry live twitter feeds from people on the ground, you have an audience that expects a certain level of reporting. This expectation creates a literate and educated journalistic pool more interested in bringing you the story than creating or slanting it to fit a particular advertiser or network owner.
American news, instead of reporting the facts, repeatedly slants the story to create the propaganda they're pushing. The talking heads are interchangeable and do little but act as set decorations with moving lips. Instead of in depth reporting, the American audience gets Joe Doofus on the street talking stupid shit that is supposed to be average, but instead comes off sounding totally idiotic and nonsensical.
It beats having to cover the story and it sure beats educating the audience beyond the point where simple Scientific concepts are too difficult for them to grasp. Because if the viewers get too smart, then they won't buy the stupid, meaningless crap that takes up most of the half hour anyway. And that's what American TV really exists for: to sell stuff. They could care less about the news, about the audience, about the idiocy of the viewing public. All they care is that you buy enough of the advertised crap so they can keep their job reading propaganda written by their overlords to pass on to viewing morons.