24 Hour News

James Fallows talks about what he calls the tyranny of technology – the way technology has changed news from having a daily news cycle, where organizations could take time to react and respond to news, to continuous coverage news where the responses and reactions must be nearly pre-planned. The tyranny here, as I interpret it, is that we have lowered the bar for what passes as news and increased the likelyhood of having the wool pulled over the eyes of society through a barrage of information that is no longer meaningful.

What do others think? Has 24-hour instant coverage news improved our access to useful information? Were there benefits to the daily news cycle that we have lost?

9 comments for “24 Hour News

  1. January 19, 2009 at 5:53 pm

    I like the 24-hour news. I can check in anytime and get up to date; I don’t have to arrange my schedule around the evening news. The internet makes a huge difference as we can get more detail that ever was available by TV or newspapers. We get more stories from every corner of the world.

    I think the problem is with “Breaking News” when the story has not been confirmed or fully developed. But haven’t we all become somewhat suspicious of so-called breaking news?

    To me, the pros offset the cons.

  2. January 19, 2009 at 7:11 pm

    I don’t think that “Breaking News” really covers the whole problem, but I agree that I like the ability to check in without being limited to the evening news. I guess I have never thought of waiting for the evening news because I wasn’t interested in the news very much back when I used to watch TV years ago.

    Thanks for sharing. I hope to hear a few more perspectives as well. It would be nice to get enough feedback for a follow up post.

  3. January 19, 2009 at 7:23 pm

    True about breaking news, actually there are lots of flaws in the news programs I watch. I thought of another thing that drives me crazy. I call it the “Elian Gonzales” syndrome – remember that little boy? The media becomes so obsessed with a certain story that everything gets blown out of proportion, and the reporting of the news affects the outcome of the story itself, often with sad results. There are many examples

  4. January 19, 2009 at 8:00 pm

    I’m with Bekkieann on her second comment. The moment something generates ratings (and I do mean “the moment”), the news programs grab it and push it out every few minutes. The Internet news services do something quite similar.

    Most of the time, they have nothing to add to what they said a few minutes earlier, so they pretend like they do. This causes a complete loss of proportion, as Bekkieann says. Matters of greater importance are shuffled to the bottom of the newscast or are soon dropped from the few top stories on news sites.

    Nothing pulls ratings like salacious (or seemingly salacious) content. On slow news days, matters of little importance are turned into headline stories.

    It’s not just a lack of proportion. Reporting resources are ill used, resulting in a lack of reporting of newsworthy items. I wonder how many reporting resources that could have been applied to important matters were wasted on investigating Joe the Plumber, for example.

  5. January 19, 2009 at 8:42 pm

    Elian Gonzales is a great example. The minute by minute updates to milk the ratings followed by the rush to a new topic as soon as one presents itself is exactly the flattening of events Fallows had described (which I talked about in an earlier post). Does anyone have a clear memory of the days when there was a daily news cycle? I consider myself too young to have any perspective on that time.

  6. January 19, 2009 at 9:36 pm

    Heh, David, I remember Huntley and Brinkley, I remember Edward R. Murrow, I remember sitting cross-legged on the floor staring at the black and white test pattern anxiously waiting for programming to start for the day. Not only was the news cycle longer, the broadcasters were not bimbo news readers (that bimbo applies to men as well as women), they understood the stories they delivered.

  7. January 20, 2009 at 12:21 am

    They probably understood their stories because they understood what reporting was supposed to be. Your memory is consistent with what I have read. Noe the question is, do you think that it’s possible to have good reporting in a 24/7 newsroom?

  8. January 20, 2009 at 5:21 pm

    I delivered an afternoon newspaper (except for Sunday mornings) for 5½ years when I was a kid. Almost everyone took the paper. It’s kind of weird looking back at archives of the newspapers I delivered. There was a lot more ‘news’ content. There was more local stuff. And a lot of the stories were far more in-depth than what you see in the same newspaper today (now a morning edition). There were still some frivolous articles.

    I remember watching the evening news on our black & white TV set. For some reason, in our home we usually only watched the local news broadcasts and skipped the national newscasts. When I got to be a teenager, we often watched the 10:00 PM local newscast. It was mostly a repeat of the earlier broadcast.

    Since I gave up regularly watching TV news years ago (when it started to drive me crazy), I can’t really provide perspective on the quality of the reporting. And even if I did watch the news today, I’m not sure how I would accurately compare it to when I was a kid. The child me saw things very differently than the adult me does.

    All I can say for sure is that at some point I started to feel that TV newsertainment was pretty insulting to my intelligence (what little I have), and that I didn’t have any time in my schedule for it.

    • January 20, 2009 at 7:58 pm

      I think that the fact that you began to feel that newsertainment was insulting your intelligence is evidence of the diminished quality of coverage, even if you can’t vouch for the precise quality of today’s coverage.

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