To the Editor:
Last night, I watched the national “news” on one of the major networks for the first time in years. I was shocked and dismayed. You know the feeling you get when you see someone you haven’t seen in a long time and they look like they are near death. That is how I felt. What caught my attention was the lack of real news that was given. For example, they gave two sentences to a story about North Korea working on a Nuclear Ballistic Missile (about ten seconds) but, then spent five minutes talking about whether or not Beyonce was lip sinking the National Anthem and another five minutes on Manti Teo’s fake love story. What? Who cares? Tell me more about North Korea – what’s going on and what is our government doing about it?
How are we working with our South Korean allies to be prepared for this menace. What about the Chinese – do they have a part in all of this?
Another let down – they reported on Hillary Clinton’s testimony before a Senate oversight committee; but, the story was on how feisty she was – instead of what happened in Benghazi? Will someone please get to the bottom of that horrible event where four American’s were killed? Apparently our “press corps” is more interested in the First Lady’s fashion choices and Kate Middleton’s “baby bump” than in real news.
It happened again on one of the morning shows – after a cursory mention of North Korea and the cold weather – most of the show was filled with trivial drivel. Mid-show, the anchor says, “And now breaking news from Justin Timberlake.” What? Breaking news? Breaking? News? The story was – drum roll please – Justin Timberlake is producing a new album. That qualifies as breaking news? That compelling story was followed by an exposé called “Plastic Surgeon’s Wives’ Fringe Benefits.” Stop the presses – please.
All of this causes me great consternation for two reasons: First, this “tabloid journalism” must be what people want to hear. Have we as a society dipped so low that we are more interested in Hollywood stars than in the Stars and Stripes? Apparently so; but, why? What should be done?
Second, I am dismayed by the fact that “journalists” would stoop so low. Millions of people tune in each night to get their “news” from one of the major networks. What they get is slop and sludge. I wonder what Edward R. Morrow would think of the stuff that is labeled “news” today.
I have a suggestion to help fix all of this: Labels. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) could require television and radio shows to be labeled with tags such as: News, Commentary, Entertainment, Tabloid,
Variety, etc. Along with these labels would be strict guidelines defining what qualifies as each. Variety shows would be required to clearly label each segment. Hefty fines should be levied on those programs that violate their labeling. This would force “producers” to be clear about what belongs in what category. Labels would also help people like me who want to avoid “tabloid” and “commentary” and get real news.
Some might say that labels would infringe on the Freedom of the Press granted by our Constitution. My counter arguments are these: first, most other professions “self-regulate.” For example, Physicians join the American Medical Association; if a Physician acts inappropriately, the government can pull his license and the AMA drops him as a member. If an Attorney fails to do her job, she gets disbarred, etc. By contrast, our purveyors of “news” have a self-serving association called the Society of Professional Journalists. Their own website answers the question, “why join?” by proudly stating that the Society “fights and wins battles for Freedom of Information and First Amendment rights that might not otherwise be fought at all.” I couldn’t find any place to report a “journalist” for misconduct nor a list of journalists who have lost their credentials – because there aren’t any. The lack of self-governance has led to the need for governmental regulation.
My second counter argument is that we limit other rights, why can’t we put some boundaries on the press. Freedoms such as Speech, Religion and the Right to Bare Arms are all limited. In fact, the debate about increasing “gun control” is on our national front burner. If we can have “gun control,” why can’t we have “press control” as well? Just because there is “freedom of the press” doesn’t mean that journalists can say anything they want. And it doesn’t mean they should be able to give us hokum and call it “news.”