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Volume 71, Issue 6, Monday, August 29, 2005

Opinion

Real news rare on TV 'news' shows

Hasan Risvi
The Daily Cougar

In 1980 Ted Turner launched CNN, the first television network dedicated solely to the reporting of "news". Twenty-five years later, CNN is still up and running, along with sister station CNN Headline News. MSNBC and Fox News have followed suit.

Twenty-four hours a day, every day, is a very long time. With such an extensive allotment of time, producers must find a similarly large amount of material. Naturally they will report about Iraq, fuel prices, base closures, stem cell research, Supreme Court nominations or whatever other momentous issues are hovering above. 

However, all these issues are still not sufficient to fill the empty spaces. "News" channels have their analysts or guests debate the issues. Now that sounds informative, right? 

Unfortunately, these debates prove to be nothing more than parroting of partisan talking points. Usually the people who watch this will learn nothing new because they have seen the same issues argued with the same arguments many times before. The very structure of the debate is flawed. For some reason the "news" channels seem to think one can only have two viewpoints on an issue. Usually it is the classic liberal-against-conservative setup. So if you don't want to side with either Ward Churchill or Michael Savage, you are just out of luck. Two people yelling at each other may seem entertaining, but it is the furthest thing from informative.

Other times, the "news" networks will bring analysts to enlighten viewers with their expert opinions. These appearances usually leave me disappointed. For example:

Talking Head: Joining us now is a retired general. General, we are now dropping tons of cluster bombs on a Third World country. What are the people on the ground going through?

General: Well, I suspect they must be going through hell right now.

Wow, I could have told you that. 

Usually the rest of the dialogue will be filled with fruitless discourse in which the same statements are repeated but reworded to make it sound as though something new is being said. 

Even with these ploys to occupy as much time as possible, vacancies that must be filled still exist. Stories that are not important are treated as though the fate of the world is at stake. These stories usually are centered on celebrities. Celebrity news is usually broken down into two categories.

The first category pertains to established icons. An example of this would be the recent media coverage of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt visiting a dinosaur park in Canada. A banner in all caps reading "BREAKING NEWS" will appear on the screen for such petty events as Michael Jackson arriving to court in pajamas. It is pathetic that cable "news" channels' content at times tends to fit more with the National Enquirer than with legitimate news. 

The second type of celebrity news deals with celebrities created by the cable "news" media itself. When other news stories are slow to come in, the talking heads will pick up on a story usually concerning a young Caucasian female gone missing. Typically they will spend hours speculating on who did it and so on. This is the epitome of sensationalism. People go missing all the time. My sympathy goes to Natalee Holloway and her family, but her disappearance does not warrant the continuous coverage it is given.

If people want to waste their time by getting five minutes of news in an hour, they are free to do so. Just don't refer to what is so blatantly meant to be entertainment as news.

Rizvi, an opinion columnist for The Daily Cougar, 
can be reached at hasanalirizvi@yahoo.co.uk

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