Why wouldn’t they be?
I mean, really, haven’t they outlived their usefulness?
When was the last time you heard someone say…”Oh man, did you hear what happened in _________, God it’s gonna be almost impossible to wait for Brian Williams to come on at 5:30 so I can get the whole story!”
Besides, who the hell gets off work in time to watch the 5:30 news anymore? What surprises me more is when people do seem surprised the ratings keep spiraling.
Good, in-depth reporting is gone from these news programs, it’s mostly two-minute stories composed of soundbites for the poorly focused, bumper sticker news for bumper sticker types and people only seem to watch these shows during election campaigns, when life conforms to their bumper sticker format and becomes one huge bumper sticker reality.
And in part, this isn’t their fault. I want it to be, but it’s not…consider: the nightly network news programs have thirty minutes to give pieces of information about a select few stories. In a very informed, fast paced world where the information changes by the hour they’re at a loss to keep up, and when pitted against other news sources, their deficient abilities become further exposed. The time restrictions really give them little choice but to sacrifice depth and expert opinion and this is not a new phenomenon, but thirty years ago the American public had few alternatives; they took what they could…getting the same information as their neighbors at the same time on the same three channels.
Them times however, are over. People today watch football, not baseball, and most people have never heard of the Knack or the Bay City Rollers. Used to be all you had were newspapers, television and radio and yes, radio could be more immediate, but television and newspapers had the images, so despite having only one shot to spin their stories each day…the pros and
cons of the three mediums kept things relatively even, and broadcasts thrived in this era of limited competition. They developed their anchors and reporters to find the most authoritative, trusted individuals to keep the people tuning in, patron saints like Walter Cronkite.
But he’s dead now, as dead as the 5:30 future.
The advent of cable, with its multiple channels and twenty-four hour news networks stole the thunder, even before the internet came along and stole cable’s. Suddenly, nobody had to wait until 5:30 pm to see what was happening in the world. “Now” became the time, right now, and as cable became more commonplace in American homes, the dominance of the network news ratings began its steady decline in the mid to late seventies, which not coincidentally is the time cable subscriptions began its ascent. In 1978, 23% of homes had cable television and the networks were more or less it, but if you flash forward to 1999, 74% of American homes now have cable and the network ratings are hitting new, exciting lows, almost annually. But if you’re not a fan of cable news either, no worries, their fate will have a similar trajectory as cable subscriptions now have begun to fall off. One medium replaces the other and the reign of game consoles and the internet has arrived, their existence contributing strongly to the leveling off of cable viewership. Since the year 2000, the internet has expanded in American homes by 140%, and now reaches 75% of homes as of the year 2009. The number of people who report getting their news, at least in in part from the internet is 63%, and with the advent of smartphones, Apple I-pads…etc, this number will continue to climb. So fade, fade, fade network news; I don’t think you’ll completely disappear, but may you forever be marginalized, fade further away into your growing irrelevance.
Fox news had it right when they say that mainstream media is biased…they sure are, and become more so every year…but what Fox doesn’t mention is, it isn’t liberals that are benefiting, it is corporations. As the values of journalists and journalism have given way to profits, spurred on by the corporate structures now set up in the nation’s newsrooms, the censorship of stories that might impact the powers that be continues and grows. Only natural really, ever since the limits on station ownership were removed by Bill Clinton in 96 with the Telecommunications Act, the feeding frenzy’s been violent and all-consuming. Large market stations gobble up smaller markets, only to be consumed themselves by mega-corporations and what all these corporations have in common is they profit from the status quo. I doubt the influence of this on a journalist is direct, but the fact is when anyone becomes immersed in a newer environment, you pick up on the cues from that environment…I’m a social worker and when non-profits, due to cutbacks were suddenly forced to compete with private agencies for grant money…the agencies had to adopt a more corporate culture, and over time the emphasis has become less about the good of the client and much more focused on profit, billing, making numbers, statistics. I once had a job in San Francisco where I spent 50% of my time working with people and the other fifty percent working with paper. Reporters are no different; as the companies combine, as jobs dry up, they’ve been forced into survival mode, have had to become more focused on their career and turning in stories that do less to inform on substantive issues and more to inform on profit margins, or appetites for celebrity and the salacious, stories that will get shown, printed…whatever…and the stories the corporate giants want are the ones that make money for the shareholders.
General Electric owns NBC. Walt Disney owns ABC. Sumner Redstone owns CBS, and also owns MTV, VH1, Spike, Nickelodeon, BET…
Corporate ownership is the whole goddamned problem.
Rather than informing people with objective facts, they put out subtle agendas, the corporate agenda (the Fox News agenda). Meanwhile, the business managers that now run newsrooms seek even more profit, leading to budget cuts, and thereby a lack of expertise, an insertion of corporate stories as mainstream news, a complete lack of coverage unless there is crisis, and when a crisis emerges, the information is piecemeal because it must now come from people outside the news organization, people from other corporations – all with their own agendas. Instead of more objective ideas cultivated by reporters inside the news company itself, a news company that in the olden days only strived to inform, to make sure the information got out to the entire country, we are now left with public relations fact-sheets and advertisements written as news copy…nothing that would endanger the people who profit from the system as is.
The networks do still get a good story here and there, (Katie Couric interview with Sarah Palin, priceless) especially during election campaigns… but when nobody’s running for office, substantial stories rarely run the newsrooms, not anymore, not for awhile.
Sorry Brian, Katie, Diane…but it won’t be sad to wonder whatever happened to you guys.
The internet is here, and it’s got every conceivable voice imaginable, even mine.
Every website, every blog, every podcast, every direct line reporter and writer that comes along has the ability to impact and decrease the corporate influence on what we think, how we think, know and feel. It’s not that I think Brian, Katie and Diane are completely without merit, I just get sick of the praise and credit that gets heaped on these anointed mouthpieces of the powers-that-be, and their corporate lines….
Try looking up these people instead: Georgianne Nienaber, John Amato, Tom Englehart, or look up these websites: “Raw Story,” “Crooks and Liars”…read the “New Orleans Ladder.” It’s the news you aren’t supposed to read, not if General Electric and Walt Disney get their way, and they do want their way, always.
Here’s two things ABC won’t tell you: Walt Disney was an anti-semite. The first Mickey Mouse cartoons were racist as hell. If you didn’t already know this, remember, you heard it here first from a blogger, on the internet…
Evening News Ratings Down Across the Board
Have a nice day.