I canceled my cable TV in July 2009. Since then, my only access to television has been at the gym or at other people’s houses. Now that I am getting close to finishing my dissertation, I am thinking about getting TV again. In some ways I have missed it; there are shows I like that I miss, such as Mythbusters, that I look forward to watching again. But at the same time, I have enjoyed the sense of freedom I have at not being a slave to the television schedule. Granted, I realize that plenty of people use TV the way it is intended; that is, as entertainment and not as a lifestyle. But thinking about reintroducing TV to my life has made me ponder the many things I do not like about modern media programming. So let the rant commence!
When I am at the gym, there are three TVs overhead that can be viewed from the treadmills. One is usually showing a sports channel, one is cable news, and the other is often tuned to the Food Network (aside: who the hell thinks it is a good idea to have cooking shows playing while people are working out? I really don’t want to see frigging Paula Deen making pies while I am trying to burn calories!) My beef is with the cable news channel, usually HLN (Headline News – CNN). What they show is not news. Okay, okay, yes, each half-hour starts with a run down of actual news, but I need to define my terms here. Let me distinguish in this way: News, with a capital N, is information that is important for people to know. This includes weather events, political issues, international affairs… the serious stuff. The other news, with a little n, is junk food. Entertainment stories, human interest, even stuff like crime news… these are informational Twinkies.
I concede that my definitions of News and news are very broad, but I don’t want to get bogged down in the details. The point is, it seems that producers don’t think viewers want to hear the News. The News tells people what is going on in the world so they can be informed about what their leaders are doing, what their country’s relationship is with other parts of the world, what critical events (e.g. a hurricane, a demonstration, an election, food recalls, illness outbreaks) may be affecting their portion of the country. The news, on the other hand, gets people fired up about things that are, in the big scheme of things, much less important than the News. This is obvious when it comes to entertainment and sports, but less so when it comes to things like crime. But herein lies the real crux of my beef: WHY is it considered newsworthy when a child is abducted? Or when a husband murders his wife? Or even when there is a big car wreck? I’m not saying these things aren’t important to the communities where they occur, and obviously they are important to the people directly involved. But what does it say about us as News/news consumers that cable news shows spend an inordinate amount of time on a child abduction? I’m talking to you, Nancy Grace. I mean, really, WTF? The sensationalization of crime is out of control on these shows. But the sad thing is that it’s much easier to find a talking helmet head like Nancy Grace blathering about a child murder or what have you than it is to find rational, substantive, and objective commentary about the ongoing war in Afghanistan, or the significance of the recent election, or the impact of joblessness on America’s cities. Why are there no one hour talking head shows about that? Yes, yes, there are political shows, but I’m talking about News, not a Roman theater of arguments and insults that do nothing to reveal the true nature of the debate.
So I guess if I do get TV again, I’ll just stick to watching It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.