The Argument Against MSNBC and Fox News

Yesterday, I talked about how to kill Fox News, but today I want to get into the why of it all. A lot of my argument does boil down to the fact that both MSNBC and Fox News masquerade themselves as "news" sources, when they are both anything but. So, to start this discussion, I'd like to lay out what, in my mind, is the role of a news source.  I believe the most important attributes of a news source are: 1) unbiased, objective, and only concerned with the truth; 2) actively trying to inform the public about matters that affect them; 3) actively trying to contextualize and inform the public about world affairs.

The biggest problem with media today is that "unbiased and objective" has become synonymous with boring. This is partly because of the popularity of "entertainment news" sources like MSNBC, and Fox News, but also because of the recent move to the "24 hour news cycle". News outlets need to realize that "unbiased and objective" does not mean emotionless. Journalists need to rediscover their passion for the truth, and need to take pride in delivering that to the audience. As I mentioned yesterday, we as the audience have a duty to support true news sources, but those news sources also have a duty to give us the information we want.

Ultimately, the news needs to be a conversation. The news source engages the audience, gives us the truth of the situation, explains what needs explaining, and we as the audience give our reactions and help steer the news sources away from things that are trivial (ie. surfing alpacas or whatever Sarah Palin is doing at any given moment) towards things that are informative and relevant to our lives (ie. real explanations of the health care reform bill.) "News" sources like MSNBC and Fox News only serve to drown out the true news with their constant shouting back and forth. Imagine you went to a college lecture, but throughout the class, while the professor is explaining how government works, two students on either side of the room were shouting at each other constantly. Eventually, no matter how ridiculous the argument between the students, all attention moves to them, because they are loud, disruptive, and passionate. What happens at the end of the year? Everyone fails that class.

The answer seems simple: throw those students out of the class. So, why can't we do that? Why are we allowing MSNBC and Fox News to take over the public discourse? Why do we as a society enjoy being ignorant, so long as it's entertaining? And, why do we hold such low standards for those we give authority to keep us informed?

In "30 Rock" a couple weeks ago, Elizabeth Banks, playing an NBC News reporter, said, "It's a 24-hour news cycle, Jack. We don't have time to get it right." How has this idea become the truth? If access to 24-hour news comes at the expense of accuracy, I'm against it. I want the truth, and nothing else. I am smart enough to form my own opinions on what it all means.

The other detriment of the 24-hour news cycle is that politics have become unendingly corrupted. Remember this: just because the Republican party keeps getting in the news by repeating the words, "The American people do not want health care reform," does not make those words true. That is the point of living in a democracy: we tell the politicians what we want, not the other way around.

My next post will be more on my thoughts about democracy and America. Expect it when you see it.