The News Entertainment Industry

In my youth, I felt that I really ought to read the news and Keep Myself Informed. I remember being told that this would be particularly important at job interviews. Any such feeling in me was well and truly crushed when I worked abroad for a year without access to any news media. I revelled in my inability to stay abreast of events as the economy (unbeknownst to me) crashed spectacularly. Not having to stay informed was such a relief.

Since returning to the UK, I've tried to formulate my dissatisfaction with what I now think of as the News Entertainment Industry. That phrase pretty much sums it up. All broadcast media (paper, electronic or otherwise) obviously need to make money to continue. In order to make money they need readers/viewers and in order to get those, most media sell titillation, outrage, sentimentality and shock (TOSS).

Where are the analyses and the background detail? Where are the stories that inform us, rather than feeding us a slice of our preferred ideology coated in a bit of sensationalism? Most of the time they're absent.

Despite my dissatisfaction, I dip in to the news occasionally, usually after hearing a snippet of radio news that makes me curious. This impulse rarely lasts long and I find myself hastily retreating from phrases like "scientists say" and "recently released figures show", foaming at the mouth and wishing that other media had to provide citations in the same way as academics. (Note to self: Start campaign to force news media to use Zotero.)

My partner says I'm a centrist. Most of my friends are lefties and my family lean the other way. The news connoisseurs amongst these two groups both read the FT. One FT reader told me recently that every article ends with an explicit or implicit, "...so what is needed is less regulation and greater freedom for business," which may satisfy one side and is quietly ignored by the other in their quest for News. A small price to pay for being informed.

Justin Hellings

I'm a geek in a world that insists on being irrational and a greenie in a society that insists on speeding towards its own destruction. There's some work to be done here. Nah, let's go snowboard. Woo!



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