The News is Not “Reality TV”


2014-20-13 – Voter turnout this year was the lowest that it’s been since 1942.

We complain about Republican efforts to suppress the vote through voter ID laws, cutting hours at polling places, etc. But those tactics affect maybe five percent of voters. It may make a difference in a close election, but it wasn’t close! Where were the 60-some percent of voters who stayed home for other reasons?

You could say that they simply don’t care. But is not caring the innate trait of these folks? Or is someone ginning up all the apathy? I’d say it’s probably a little of both. And who does voter apathy benefit? It benefits Republicans, the same folks who were behind the voter ID laws.

If we’re supposed to be all riled up at voter ID laws, we should be 10 times as riled up at efforts to create voter apathy, because it has 10 times the impact on voting.

How do you stimulate voter apathy? With news about corruption on both sides of the partisan divide. You get the electorate, or part of it, to think that there’s either no difference between the parties or that, even if there is a difference, the “good party” can’t get anything done because of obstruction from the other side. In other words: get out the word that there is no use in voting.

I’ve written before about the unmitigated negativity of the American media. I’ve written that this type of reporting paints a false picture of our country. I’ve written that the glorification of violence in the media rewards the perpetrators and promotes more and more of the same.

Today I am writing to say that reporting on politics, as if it were a football game, devoid of any honest examination of the issues creates apathy among voters, and gives us government that mirrors the reporting.

As always, I have to say that I am not advocating happy-talk news. Far from it. I am suggesting that news is not “realitity TV.” True reality is a struggle to live, not a struggle for ratings.

If a reporter can’t manage to write a story about the struggle over health care reform or economic inequality or global climate change or prison reform or any one of a thousand real issues and make that story more compelling than a fake scandal over the President chewing gum at a summit in Beijing, they should get out of the business.

The folks lionized these days for in-depth reporting of issues tend to be comedians. I like many of their reports, but I don’t think they are so in-depth. The “real reporters” don’t hold the bar very high.

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