Monday, March 7, 2011

Just give me the facts, ma'am

As many of you know from this blog, I have managed to reduce my TV watching time quite substantially over the past two years. I still do watch a good movie on the cable channels from time to time, but my interest in following particular TV shows, series, or the news has diminished. I would like to blame this mostly on reality TV, and yes, this type of programming has definitely pushed me away from TV. It has infested nearly every major TV channel, both here and in the USA. But my current stance also has to do with the level of credibility concerning news reporting in the media generally, because I have also lost a good deal of interest in newspapers as well. I just don’t believe most of what is presented to me as news/facts anymore. I get irritated by so many things—but primarily by the loss of objectivity in news presentation. I am reminded of what Fox Mulder used to say on the X-files—‘Trust no one”. It’s how I feel about most of the news media these days. They have an ‘agenda’ that they want to push. European and Norwegian news agencies have their agendas, as do American agencies. We could discuss for hours, maybe even days, what those individual agendas are. Suffice it to say that sometimes they’re pushed right up into your face in this country as well as on CNN, so that you cannot ignore them no matter how hard you try. And you can’t stick your head in the sand like an ostrich because the minute you stick your head back up again you’re bombarded with ‘truths’, superficial reporting, politically-correct commentators and people telling you how to think and feel. If you want to make these things part of a debate program, that’s fine with me, because that’s where they belong. But don’t sell this approach to me as objective news reporting, because it’s not. And don’t get me started about the tabloid-like headlines that are supposed to hook me into reading newspaper articles. Even one of the best newspapers in Norway, Aftenposten, has resorted to using such headlines to reel in readers (and advertisers), e.g. in the vein of ‘We love to buy (something or other)’—a folksy approach that just doesn’t work for me on its front page. Furthermore, I am tired of reading and hearing journalists’ opinions about major news stories—just give me the facts please and not opinions. If I want their opinions, I’ll ask for them or even Google them if I need to. But no, it seems as though I cannot find respite anywhere.

I grew up reading The New York Times newspaper, because that’s what my parents read, in addition to the local Tarrytown newspaper that updated us on all the local happenings. But The New York Times was special. It was a real newspaper, with solid, in-depth reporting. The front page was the ‘hard news’ page and you either liked that or you didn’t. But you knew it was there and you knew that the facts were being reported on the front page. I guess that might have been boring to some people. So I decided to check out the front page of The New York Times recently, to see if it was still the ‘real news’ newspaper I remember from my youth. And as far as I can determine, it is, at least from the ‘front page’. That was heartening. But still, I have become so skeptical that credibility and truth are going to disappear at a moment’s notice that my motto remains—‘trust no one’, at least in the context of the news media. I check out many different sources now, newspapers, TV, radio, blogs, and online sites in order to get the ‘complete’ story. So in one sense, the superficial reporting of news has had a positive effect—I now am willing to use whatever time is needed to find truth and credibility, especially if one or two news stories particularly interest me.

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