Manufactured Media

Ok, so this whole swine flu thing has me thinking.  Not about how to protect myself against the apparent mother-of-all-pandemics, but rather about how easily led the American public is by flashy graphics and foreboding news anchors.  These days, mass media is an ocean of money.  I may of missed the boat on this one, but that doesn’t mean you should.  I can see the infomercial now…(channeling Billy Mays)

“Hello, and welcome to How to Run A Successful Cable News Station in 3 Easy Steps!  Pay attention, and soon you’ll be rolling in money Ron Burgundy-style!  In just 3 easy steps, you can become the next American media mogul.  Are you ready?  Here you go:

1. Create a false sense of panic.

2. Report on the ensuing panic.

3. Profit!

It’s just that easy!”

Call now!  Heres how to order!

"Call now! Here's how to order!"

During the first Gulf War, CNN came into prominence and proved that news can work in the realm of Cable TV.  They launched the Headline News channel, and for the first time, the American public could get their news 24-hours a day.  The stories were presented on a 30-minute loop and updated at various intervals every few hours.  This means that you could take a half hour out of your day at any given time and get caught up on the news.  How convenient.

These days, it’s not that simple.  The ease and convenience of the 30-minute loop is gone.  There are several reasons why this happened.  The main reason is that we live in the age of the Internet, where any conceivable type of information is immediately available on a whim.  So the 24-hour format CNN pioneered faded into obscurity right?  Oh wait…it spawned MSNBC, CNBC, and Fox News.  Fantastic.

So how do four different networks compete for viewers in a genre that is being rendered more unnecessary by the minute?  Well, the concise half-hour loop has been replaced by 24-hour live streaming infotainment!  The main problem with this is (shh, don’t tell anybody) there isn’t 24-hours worth of news in a given day, much less every day.

In essence, cable news has become the same as your average vitamin pill, 1% substance and 99% filler.  I heard stories about Barack Obama’s dog for two solid weeks.  Shockingly, this has been one of the more relevant stories.  There is actually a Twitter feed called DumbCNNStories which tracks real news headlines.  Let’s take a look at a few:

“Why women are leaving men for other women”

“8 love lessons you can learn from movies”

“Are you and best buddy in a ‘bromance’?”

“Valerie Bertinelli hanging on to fat clothes”

What happened?  I actually had to do a double take to make sure that I was looking at and not the cover of Cosmo.  However, the general public will eventually tune out what are basically lame Jerry Springer show topics (although if they start throwing chairs at the news desk, you can bet I’ll be watching).  To get ratings, you need hard-hitting stories that capture the attention and strike fear into the heart of John Q. Everyman.  And if there are none of those stories to be found, you can simply make them up!

That’s where the swine flu “pandemic” comes in.  The swine flu, unfortunately, has reportedly resulted in the deaths of anywhere between 25 and 150 people in Mexico, with no deaths reported in the United States.  I definitely do not mean to trivialize the deaths of those affected, but this is by no means something to panic about.  Especially when you consider the fact that the regular flu has killed over 13,000 Americans since January (source: ironically, CNN).  So why did the whole country get in one giant tizzy and start closing schools and canceling sports events?  Simply put, we were told to.  And we bought it hook, line, and sinker.  So while the viewing public changed their collective underwear, the news networks got a solid two-week ratings boost.

Will not kill you, but not recommended.

Will not kill you, but not recommended.

Somebody should really write a book about how mainstream media has degenerated into the equivalent of a terrible daytime talk show.  Oh wait, someone did.  Kids, your first reading assignment from the R.O.T.U Book Club (watch out Oprah, we’re coming for you!) is authored by Drew Curtis, the founder of  It’s called “It’s Not News, It’s Fark: How Mass Media Tries to Pass Off Crap As News”.

Reports are due next week.



2 Responses to “Manufactured Media”

  1. Big Dave Says:

    I’ve always said that news thrives on the three Ds–death, destruction, and human degridation.

    Very well said !!

  2. Insightful, funny and true. We have had a few positive B flu tests since the swine flu scare and I contemplated calling the Daily Citizen and reporting the “Bee Flu Pandemic” occuring in Dalton. 🙂

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