The wasteland of TV news

I turned on the TV at 6:30 tonight with the hope of catching a Seinfeld rerun (alas, Family Guy– if there’s a rhyme or reason to which TBS plays on a given night, somebody please tell me), but since there was none I gave ABC news a try for a few minutes.  It was a “Breaking News” story about what Trump had to say about “complicated” health care today.  The report was horrible.  It simply laid out what Trump said and what McConnell and Ryan had to say on the matter.  It was barely more than stenography posing as journalism.  There was no suggestion at all of the impossibility of Trump’s promises.  No attempt to add any context to Ryan’s proposal or explain that replacing direct subsidies with tax credits would have a huge negative financial impact on millions.

Nothing the report said was untrue.  No lies.  But virtually no effort to add the context to help the average viewer of this newscast understand how what Trump and Ryan said would actually effect them.  You know what?  It’s hard to do in the short amount of time a TV story gets.  But not impossible.  NPR typically does policy stories with exactly the kind of important context lacking here.  In absolutely can be done.

Cable TV news takes a lot of criticism for pretty poor journalism (rightly), but it sure as hell is not restricted to just cable.  In general, TV journalism, is lazy, shoddy journalism.  Forget any kind of ideological bias.  That’s your problem right there.  And why I will be more vociferous than ever in telling my students to get their news from newspaper organizations and not TV news ones.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

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