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Media Doesn’t Cover Terrorism. Let’s Get Real

by John on 02/08/2017

TrumpListIf you agree with President Trump’s assertion that the “media ignores terrorism” then 1 of 3 three things are happening in your head:

  • You’re rooting for Trump no matter what.
  • You have swallowed the sports/entertainment bias.
  • You are blind to today’s economic environment for the media today.
  • You don’t get free enterprise.
  • Or you don’t understand the real causes of terrorism

Let’s be fair. Today’s media has no Walter Cronkite. But Trump is no Washington or Lincoln either.

Here’s the reality.

  • First, the news media is a for-profit industry. The business structure of most media outlets is to gather as many eyeballs on as many platforms. Many times they will appeal to what a niche audience likes and wants.  They’re no different than Walmart or Amazon who has to give you want you want – and “deliver when I want it” or you leave.
  • Second, the media exists for live events like a terrorist attack. Why?  It is the easiest thing in the world for them to cover. They don’t have to do much.  Everything happens right there for them.  This is not investigative journalism. For the most part, this is just pointing the camera and hitting record.
  • Third, let’s give credit to journalists in the field risking their lives for these stories. Do you really think they are out there to just take down Trump and hide terrorism?
  • Fourth, if the media failed to cover terrorism, would anyone tune in?   Their reason for being is for a live dramatic event.  People tune in to terror attacks because it is the rubber-neck traffic effect.  Getting those views is how they get paid!

Trump’s silly list of different terror events, he says, were not covered by the media, then Spokesperson Sean Spicer said they weren’t “covered enough” shows another reckless disregard for facts and the truth.

Sure, a knife attack in Egypt or a bomb in Bosnia might not have gotten huge air time, but does Middle America care about that so far away?

And yes, the media might taper coverage when there is extensive terrorism, which we seemed to have last year.  But, again, that’s because the media is listening to their audience. Why? Because if the audience leaves, so does the advertisers, and the revenues.

I know many of you want to believe there is a media conspiracy here.  There is, but not against Trump.  They are using him just like he is using them.  And it is the same little dirty secrets every company and retailer uses on its customers: give them what they want.

kellyanne on cnnTake the silly, overblown, way too long interview on CNN between Jake Tapper and Kellyanne Conway yesterday.  I regret even putting a link here.  I couldn’t watch it.  It did nothing for us as a nation.  It proved that Kellyanne Conway, one of the great deflectors, is off her game.  It gave CNN more ratings and clicks on their sites.  But it did nothing to provide solutions to the problems we face.  In fact, it kept us away from those solutions.

So what are the causes of terrorism that you don’t really here about:

  • Petro-dictators in Middle Eastern and African countries that have not shared the wealth to educate or lift up their citizens.
  • An impossible fissure between Sunni and Shia in the Islamic world that shows no sign of waning.
  • US environmental movement that demanded no scarring of our lands for energy exploration; let the poor folks in those countries endure that.
  • Petro-dictators who paid off extremist Islamic imams who sowed hate and 7th Century thinking into a population of angry, out of work men.
  • Drought in the Middle East that has limited resources and food, creating tribal battles, massive deaths, and refugees.
  • Harsh military bombardment by US and western allies that have hurt innocent people as well as Islamic criminals but created more jihadists.
  • Shale oil production in the US that allows us to withdrawal from the region while cutting major revenues to the petro-dictators who are now forced into brutal tactics to survive.

syrian-refugees-lebanon-4Have you heard any of that from the news media lately?  No.  Why?  Because you need boring experts who have written books to tell you that.  And it is much easier to entertain and scare folks about refugees who have never caused any terror attacks here — yet.

Let’s get back to the media.  Please understand. I have seen all this media transformation firsthand. This is why I have this platform today.

I have seen and chronicled here the erosion of independent news that has morphed into corporate news from the 1980s until now.

When I was at KTNV-TV 13 in Las Vegas from 1990 to 1996, I was not only the main anchor but also the Managing Editor. That would never happen today. A news anchor today is an entertainer more than a journalist; getting ratings is the priority.

At that time, I demanded a journalistic say in all the newscasts based on my investigative and newspaper background.  And they gave it to me.  And back then our ratings shot up because we were a real news station first.  Notice I said “back then”.

I also had a journalistic say in Real TV, a video news magazine show, not even a newscast.  Most of my on-camera lead-ins were written or rewritten by me. In fact, I used my “less is more approach” in writing so that the videos, not me as the host, were the stars of the show.

Flash forward 15 years when I was a news anchor at NECN.  With all due respect to my fellow employees, who I consider great professionals, this was still a corporate-run newsroom. The company is owned by Comcast.  Here I had little or no editorial control.  In fact, when I wasn’t anchoring, I was forced to write and produce stories on such big issues as Lindsay Lohan.

Again, this is not a criticism.  It is showing you the reality of the news media today.  The mainstream news media, especially on cable TV, is an entertainment media. They use entertainment tactics such as pitting a protagonist versus an antagonist like any good drama would do.  (I know this; as a literature major I studied story structure extensively.)

These media companies use sports techniques: boil everything down to one team against another team.  It works to keep folks interested.

Here’s the great irony at NECN.  In my contract, I was prohibited from saying anything derogatory against any of the local major-league sports teams. (Like I would say anything against the Red Sox.)  If I did, it was grounds for firing.  News or protecting advertising?

No big deal, right?  Well, there was a big story about a study from Boston University about brain injuries in the NFL that was spiked; never ran.

Am I trashing an old employer?  No. I am pointing out that they are not a news organization first. They are an entertainment, ratings, and advertising company.  (And yes they cover breaking terror news; they were all over the Boston Marathon Attacks.)  They are also old line media companies trying to compete in the new media where Facebook and Google are eating their advertising lunch.  To survive they have to employ these tactics.

Many friends lambaste me for not taking apart FOX News enough. I think FOX News is brilliant in their business model; they have a near monopoly on that right-wing audience that is so passionate.  However, do I consider them a pillar of news coverage? No. I feel the same way about CNN and MSNBC.

Does that mean you don’t watch them?  No. You watch them all.

And you become the journalist you want them to be.

The real media is you and me.  After all, it is called social media.  We are the only ones who can get real information out of the mainstream media.

That means:

  • Reading many sides including books and news and commentary posted online
  • Thinking and making common sense judgements before you re-post.
  • When you are uncertain of something, don’t post it. Ask your followers for help.
  • Blocking people who are pure partisans, who post false information, who cry fake news when they don’t like something.
  • Demand solutions.
  • Demand to know the real problems
  • Demand your politicians to be transparent and stop taking money from special interests and voting for them.

If we did all that, we would reduce the problems and the divisiveness in our country today. We might actually create some social trust.

We all think the politicians and the media hate each other.

No they don’t.

They actually work together.  Look at the Citizens United ruling.

No political parties nor the media are calling for its repeal.  Why?  It would ruin their financing schemes.  Even though, those special interests are the ones blocking the disruption and innovation we really need.

A lot of this could be changing, though.

In an upcoming post I will show some local TV news outlets that are beginning to bring solutions to and with its audience.  And Trump’s victory without special interest money may be changing many things in the media and politics.

Stay tuned, as they so.  Oh, that is so 1990’s!

Your thoughts?


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