Christian Long

Alisa Miller: The News About the News

In TED Talks on April 7, 2010 at 7:53 pm

Reflection by DARCY SMITH

Original TED page w/ speaker bio, links, comments, etc:

Alisa Miller:  The News About the News

In theory, the mass broadcasting of news is supposed to be an unbiased extension of one human’s senses. At least, that’s the trust we give to the media: to be unbiased and extensive. Our brains rely on our ability to sense the world outside our minds to function. Therefore, our senses are essentially what enable us to think and do. The relationship of event-broadcaster-human is meant to resemble the sensory process, in that something occurs, we use our senses to observe it, and we process it. We trust that the national news reports relevant stories to the nation so that we can intake the information, process it, and make assumptions and judgments if we so chose. However, we depend upon our senses to be pure and truthful and if suddenly our eyes see something that doesn’t happen, or rather our ears don’t hear something, the way that we think can be fundamentally altered.

Life today is obviously not as it was 70 years ago.

More people have the ability to travel if so desired, the world of business is much more international, and people around the world have the ability to connect within seconds. With this kind of connection between people and countries around the planet, it is absolutely essential that we know as much as possible about other nations. This is where the media comes into the lives of Americans: how can someone understand the world around them if they aren’t seeing the entire picture? The answer is they can’t. If one was writing an article about a painting by Picasso, they can’t apprehend the voice of the piece if they mainly focused on a portion of the painting, just like American’s can’t understand the voice of the world and their position in the world if 79% of what they hear about on a daily basis is only concerning them. This statistic is extremely shattering. If Americans are ignorant to the world around them then there is hardly any chance they will be able to improve it, let alone take interest in improving it. America is not only just one country; it is a part of the entire world.

A good question to ask is why America is so good at talking about America.

The fact of the matter is, as Miller says, it is cheaper for news networks to get footage of the latest Britney Spears scandal than tragic flooding in Indonesia. There are other factors that contribute to a news company’s decision on which stories to report other than the most important and relevant story, and money is one of them. Miller mentions on a comment the idea of “profitable news.” Its clear that the mandate of broadcasters has been tossed aside; no longer is it enough to inform with news, they have to entertain. This is where Americans aren’t given access to the information they are entitled. It seems to be that stories that hold more significant ties to the lives of Americans are deemed more profitable, whereas stories that might make people ask, “Why should I care?” are cast aside, though relevant as they are.

This question, which might be asked by Americans, opens another rabbit hole where the origin of this question is pondered. What makes people care about current events? Does a story always have to pertain to themselves? Or does it always have to be so shocking or devastating or entertaining that is would spark interest?

The answer is found in the quality of journalism.

As mentioned before, the world of journalism is no longer just reporting the happenings of our surroundings in intriguing ways; it’s a business now. The stories that sell now are the stories that are domestic and have the most relevance to the average American. Apparently the interest in Indonesia’s tragedy is slim compared to Anna Nicole Smith’s death. This is for two reasons for this: firstly, we hardly experience decent journalism that leaves the reader raising questions and thirsting for more and we see more coverage that reads like, “Anna Nicole Smith died. America is heart broken. Tiger Woods cheated on his wife. He is embarrassed to say the least. Bad influence. Economy,” which tells the viewer what to think. The second reason that it’s simply cheaper to cover American gossip rather than stories from other places in the world. Individual journalists are more likely to report on stories that are already (what they deem) vaguely interesting, as opposed to taking a hum-drum story and making it interesting through writing style and technique. The way which news is presented on our local news channels is very basic and simplistic, not very though provoking. After a while of hearing endless coverage about Michael Jackson’s death and children afloat in homemade air balloons what we perceive as “important” really changes.

After our definitions of relevance morphs, we more easily ask the question, “Why should I care?”

Our perception also changes because we hear mostly of America and not about the whole world, and after a while all we care to care about is ourselves. Ignorance, in this case, will lead to our downfall. We can’t possibly keep up with the connecting world without knowing what’s going on outside our little bubble. It is critical to realize that the USA is a piece of the whole. Citizens of America simply can’t synthesize with the world in which they live if they haven’t a clue about it, and time is of the essence. We can’t afford for anymore of our senses to malfunction; we must demand that the news be heard.

  1. […] not by news companies owned by corporations. The news is supposed to be unbiased, said Darcy S.,[] but through political and economic manipulation, the media has become a business. […]

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