Kill your television… and TV news along with it

Although I’ve never slapped a “Kill Your TV” sticker on my bumper, I resonate deeply with those who have. That said, I feel sufficiently qualified to argue the superiority of the written word over flashing, blinking, fancy-sound-tracked nonsense that passes today as TV news.

I should warn you, however, for those who might claim I am simply jumping on an anti-Fox News bandwagon, that I have viewed none of the many anti-TV documentaries populating today’s video stores. I rather smugly decided that watching the same fancy-edited media blast the media I desire to blast convolutes that original blasting. Boom.

So here goes. Put simply, TV news makes us dumber.

Want proof? I could cite a 2003 poll by the Program on International Policy and Knowledge Networks which discovered that those who receive their news from the Fox Network to be grossly misinformed on three important international facts. First, that Iraq was connected to the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Second, that weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq. Third, that global public opinion supported the American-led invasion of Iraq. All three assumptions, of course, have been disproven.

Rather than getting buried in statistics and sociological bric-a-brac, I thought I’d ask the good folks at Sojourners Magazine in Washington, D.C. what they think.

And they’re smart. Really smart.

First to weigh in is Duane Shank, policy adviser for Sojourners and a soft-spoken man who sifts through mountains of printed newspaper on a daily basis, avoiding the Tube at all costs.

According to Shank, “Newspaper journalism allows for reflection in words and ideas rather than simply pictures with a short voice over.” Shank thinks much of TV news is driven by a 24-hour news cycle. Essentially, what’s “hot” at the moment is what ends up in the spotlight, not necessarily what’s important.

Dr. Elizabeth Palmberg, associate editor for Sojourners, articulated similar issues in an email: “TV news suffers from the innate handicap that it has to go for the good visual image, even if it doesn’t get to the core of the story. TV also makes its audience into passive news couch potatoes – you can’t skim the headlines, decide what to read or re-read, or have a moment of quiet to think about it. Worst of all, the Nielsens drive TV news towards a sensationalistic, ever-lower common denominator.”

You’ve heard it before: “If it bleeds, it leads.”

Finally, Jim Rice, Sojourners’ managing editor and another avid news reader, claims that the single most important factor in becoming and remaining an “informed consumer” involves “being in control, rather than having ‘what is news’ dictated to you by a corporation.”

Preach it, Jim.

If there are those who remain unconvinced, who still believe watching TV news is any more educational than watching an overstuffed loveseat, don’t worry, the debate is only beginning. Let me know what YOU think, and we’ll see if you can convince the Sojourners folks to replace their mountains of print (all recyclable, by the way) with a 42-inch flat screen defaulted to “The O’Reilly Factor.”

Good luck.

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