People live in cocoons believing that they are well informed. Many of them get their information from televised news, frequently from a nightly network broadcast. The information they are given is a group of oversimplified reports about deaths, violence, conflicts, and dangers. For good measure, sports and weather are also given due attention.
Death, generally perceived as the worst thing that could happen to anyone, is a key focus of most major metropolitan area newscasts. The headlines tell all:
- Teen Arrested in Death of University Student
- Police Kill Man After a Queens Bachelor Party
So, in essence, the lead stories are about who died and how. Violence, another threat that has the potential to lead to death is the next focus. General “mayhem” topics follow: rapes, robberies, assaults, attacks, beatings, fights.
Themes of NEWS MEDIA TERRORISM® – The Underlying Messages
- Seeking to place Blame – throwing stones – witch burners
- Creating Conflict
- Generating Sadness
- Creating Fear – We’re Not Safe
RADIO & PRINT NEWS
Once the deliverers of news discovered that dumbed-down, headline-focused, and sound bite-reinforced capsules of information make people feel as though they are well informed, the value as a commodity continued to increase exponentially. In fact, that may be the key to the problem—people who watch or read the news believe they are well informed.
Radio and television news have a similarity in that the listener is at the mercy having to go through the order of the news, when waiting to find out what s/he wants to know. The viewer/listener must endure the other stories that s/he may not have wanted to hear in the first place.
Another key issue, and it has to do with all media is, who decides what shall be consumed by the audience? Who decides “what is news?” Of course, the oversimplified answer is: whatever sells. The kinds of news stories that increase sales and gain viewers will get the most attention. It’s the old line, “If it bleeds, it leads.” The media fixation with gore and violence is fed by people’s want to see the “train wreck.” Crime and violence stories mean increased ratings for newscasts.
Cohen and Solomon (1995) reported that their studies of 100 television news outlets around the nation yielded the following coverage:
- 42 percent – “Mayhem” (crime, disaster and war)
- 30 percent – Crime
- 11 percent – Government
- 2 percent – Environmental
- 1.8 percent – Poverty
- 1.6 percent – Unions and labor
- 0.9 percent – Civil rights
Fluff coverage included stories about “a Miss Bald USA contest, a beauty contest for cows, a bourbon-tasting contest in Texas and a kangaroo who fell into a swimming pool.”
OTHER VISUAL MEDIA
There are other sources of one-way, mass communication in different forms of visual media. These include television shows, videos, movies, and even games. Overwhelmingly, television takes the lead spot in this genre, and it presents a values challenge for those who choose to resist.
Television paints a surreal picture of how the world is, or should be. So many times, the emotion of the moment is the focus of attention, Like news, how people feel is paramount to what is actually happening.
The drama of crime is the subject of so many nighttime programs. In them, we’re drawn into the world of the out-of-the-ordinary.
Using a combination of music and lifestyle presentation, musicians (more specifically, the music industry), have spawned an entire culture. Who releases the media and how does that affect people? Releasing “bad music” keeps the music-listening population in the dark, where it comes to better music. If it doesn’t sell, no need for it.
The question of what gets allowed on radio is an important one. As in the past, with the pay-for-play scandal exposed, power-brokers know, and audiences find out, that media exposure via radio can mean the difference between success and failure. Success and failure in a media society is measured by dollars.
Fortunately, for artists—especially musicians, the Internet has subverted some of the challenges of getting their art past the Power Brokers, and into the hands of an eager audience. In that sense, they playing field has, in recent years, become more level.