Published on January 18th, 2012 | by Leonard Jackson0
A New News Shortfall
Did you ever wonder if maybe, just maybe, we don’t have enough daily news supply to meet the demand? On any given day we simply don’t have enough going on to satisfy the media’s voracious appetite. There are so many organizations in the information industry today competing for our attention that there has to be a constant flow of chatter to hold our attention and hence their audience/ratings regardless of what it takes. So we tend to hear the same thing repeated again and again. Any piece of information grows by repetition and the more often we hear it the greater in importance it becomes.
We now have such highly sophisticated technology in the news business, that we can learn in seconds after the fact what has happened in almost any place on the planet, analyze the event thoroughly, and in just a few hours render it as old as yesterday’s newspaper. Just like our farmers, whose advanced technology and expertise enable them to produce more agricultural goods and services than we can consume, we now have the same productive efficiency in the news business. Simply put, there is just not enough new news each day to satisfy this demand from all the television, radio and print news networks.
When actual news events do happen it is remarkable how well they are covered with today’s technology. The 9/11 horror and the Columbia disaster were two events that held us spellbound as we watched. To sit in our homes and be able to see historical events of this magnitude unfold before our eyes reminds us of the remarkable times in which we are privileged to live. But the problems arise on most other days when nothing much happens and yet the news world is obligated to deliver, with excitement and unbridled fervor, the day’s events over and over until something newer emerges to replace the past hour’s headlines.
Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) a major event doesn’t occur every day and therein lays the trouble. That is when the creative juices begin to flow and small incidents become extremely urgent; normal rainstorms begin to be possible floods; a purse snatcher becomes a top-level criminal and a fender-bender is a critical accident requiring on the scene coverage (preferably in the rain or even better – snow). Last, but certainly not least, are the endless weather reports by in-house meteorologists who skip about the studio pointing at graphs and color-coded high (and low) pressure systems (understood only by and of interest to the presenters) that threaten to destroy us. A one-inch snow flurry in areas that have had snow every winter for the past one hundred years is followed closely for any sudden changes that might occur. A normal rainstorm brings a halt to all programming regardless of the program airing, so that we can be assured that, true enough, we are having a rainstorm much like the last thousand that we have had over the years.
Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t have any particular ax to grind on this matter. Television is not one of my addictions. But I have just realized that we have to listen to the news today differently than we did in earlier times. Before we pack up the family and head for the basement or high ground, depending on the approaching disaster, we might take a deep breath, and maybe a grain of salt. If we are not careful by late afternoon on a slow day we will be so worked up over a grass fire on the other side of town that we may rush out and bring in supplies for the ensuing catastrophe.
Now I admit that I date myself with these reminiscences, but I grew up in a time when the family TV was on only at certain times of the day when there were programs scheduled. There was news presented once or twice a day for thirty minutes when there was actually some news to report. The weather forecast was (as it is today) an educated guess as to what we could expect in the next 12 to 24 hours with a 50-50 chance of its accuracy. That was OK. We weren’t farmers. We didn’t need to hear the prognostication two or three times each hour. Also, if the TV was on it showed a test pattern with no sound. Sometimes the entertainment offered by today’s programmers to try to fill the advertising time spaces reminds me that the test patterns weren’t so bad after all. At least they bored us quietly.