PBS News Coverage: Grand Jury does not Indict Officer

The Ferguson Shooting is of course of great interest right now. But I’m not getting into race discussions. I actually just want to whine a little bit about the news. (Am I allowed? I know it’s so overdone that it can be quite boring, but I figure just this once.)

So here I am in the middle of the PBS coverage, listening intently to the evidence being given, when the speech is cut off mid-sentence in order to replace real detailed discussion with more talking head speculation. I missed a great deal of the speech and after a few minutes, it occurred to me to look for live coverage. By this point it was just interviews with the media.

Gotta love the news.

When things get a little bit technical, the news cameras shut off. Who’s fault is it? Ours for being too scatter-brained? Or theirs for assuming we’re too scatter-brained?

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19 thoughts on “PBS News Coverage: Grand Jury does not Indict Officer

  1. Aaagh! It drives me mad. And it all gets enmeshed in political discourse too; there’s a constant appeal in the MSM to the lowest common denominator – even though they’re probably not watching or listening, or at least, not discriminatingly so. Printed newspapers are all but dead, and have become little more than repositories of click-bait in their online manifestations; they’re there merely as billboards for advertisers. What the hell are we going to do when the internet gets sold, bit by bit, to the highest bidder?

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    • You know, I’ve often wondered what’s going to happen to the internet when older generations are gone and TV news is no longer getting the viewers they need to continue. Or will they change the news somehow to make it appealing to younger generations?

      Appeal to the lowest common denominator really really irks me. It’s clearly happening to TV. Even our precious PBS and BBC America, which here in the States is not at all the international coverage we expect, nor is it really a new perspective. It’s just the same ‘ol American news with highfalutin’ British accents which make viewers feel a little smarter. To be fair, there is slightly more international coverage, but the newscasters seem to be slightly worse even—overly emotional (fake emotion, that is) and a lot of introduction of each other, as if they just enjoy hearing themselves speak to each other in their wonderful accents. When these newscasters start getting that fake emotion on, that “I’m so earnest” expression on their faces, I have the irresistible urge to throw cheese at the screen. A semi-soft cheese, something that will stick.

      LCD: It’s happening in education too…oh don’t get me started.

      In any case, your question about what’s going to happen to the information on the internet is spot on. It feels like we’re in an in-between stage where print-TV is allowed to co-exist with the internet right now, each carrying a different demographic. But when things get full blown internet, can you imagine all the Viagra, Cialis, Lipitor, Crestor commercials? All the pop up adds driving everyone crazy? And then where will we turn?

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  2. I’ve come to regard American TV coverage as mostly useless, for exactly that reason. They’re too often more interested in showing pundits, who are often just as clueless as the rest of us, except they articulate it better. I find NPR is often a better source of information, but the internet is the best (with proper skepticism in all cases 🙂 ).

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    • I don’t generally watch TV news, but my husband’s a news junkie who reads the NYT cover to cover in the morning, then watches all the channels at night. Then, each and every night, he complains about the news and threatens to stop his subscription to the newspaper. Then I remind him he’d have nothing to do in the morning. 🙂 I keep telling him the internet is better, but he just doesn’t like it. Oh, and he listens to NPR from time to time in the car.

      NPR is pretty much the go-to for most people who really want better quality. As you said, proper skepticism in all cases!

      To be honest, I don’t even pay attention to the news much. I let my news junkie husband tell me what’s going on—I’ve marked this as his task—and that way he can filter the minor news stories I don’t care about.

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      • I used to be a news junkie too. (You could say I still am, just a different kind than I used to be.) I watched the local news, then the evening network news, then the McNeil Lehrer New Hour, then CNN. I watched every Sunday morning talk show.

        As the news ecosystem has developed on the internet, I’ve gradually moved away from all that. I also realized that most of the people on those talk shows know little more than we do, and the guests who do know more are usually evasive, so that little real information comes from them, at least in my opinion. So now I scan Google News and my local paper, and whatever else comes through the various science, philosophy, news, blog, and social media feeds I watch. I do sporadically watch the news, but it’s more to be aware of what everyone else is seeing than to get real information.

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  3. For me it’s NPR and the paper version of the NYT. I think TV has its place when the visual element is important for understanding the story, as often in wartime. But the quality is unbearably low. And I hate talking heads. Very rarely do they add anything useful.

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  4. “If you are looking for the guilty, you need only look into a mirror.” -V-

    I think we have to admit it is our fault the media is the way it is. I know it is a crazy idea, especially in US culture, to blame people rather than the media; but we have really brought this upon ourselves by supporting this kind of dumb-down news.

    I was born and raised in Europe, I still have spent more time there than I have here in the US, and I genuinely miss a newscast in which details and facts are provided. I disagree with the ‘talking-head’ system that exists, as far as I know, only in the US. Spain, France, England, all of these countries have informative newscasts that simply report on what is going on and reduce talking by the reporter to a minimum.

    It cannot be avoided. We like simple newscasts because we are simplistic. We watch that which interests us most; and that which interests us is dramatic and simplistic in nature so, in a sense, we have caused the label to be placed upon ourselves. You thought of going to live coverage and, in order to change what shows up in media coverage, we as a people need to do the same. Then the media will change.

    People shout out “the media, the media” constantly as if it justified their behavior; but such is a valid excuse. We need to make our own choices, crave better things, and we will propel change.

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      • Who doesn’t love to blame? 😛

        I guess I don’t see the problem of the chicken and the egg (I may misunderstand the paradox, though). People, from my perspective, were definitely around before media, so media is the product of the people. Turn the tv of and media goes away, it collapses.

        We also think of blame as a bad thing, it isn’t. Blame is simply the proper allocation of guilt (in the sense of a trial, not of emotional opinion). It is far easier to say that we cannot choose and incorrectly place guilt on Media (I hate that I have to capitalize it now because I realize it is an institution I am talking about) instead of ourselves.

        If change is dependent first on admitting the problem, we need to admit we, sadly, are the silly ones who need to change before Media can change.

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  5. I completely agree with your sentiment on typical North American media coverage.

    The desire for overly simplified narratives is part of the issue with the media, but another element is the fact that we as consumers want to see exciting newscasts as opposed to merely informative ones. As a result the media tends to try to produce newscasts that will compete with other forms of entertainment and excitement. News stops becoming about reporting the who, what, where, when and how and more about the drama of the opposing perspectives on the event.

    Unless we see engagement with news media as distinct from the engagement with entertainment in general it seems unlikely to me that we will go away from the trend of punditry instead of journalism. Punditry give either the viewer something to cheer for or against, while simply reporting what occurred leaves the viewer or reader to develop their own thoughts. When we are not working we tend to prefer doing the former rather than the latter.as we are exhausted and it is easier to be distracted than reflective.

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    • I think it would be amazing if the media simply reported the facts and left us to our own opinions. That would so refreshing. Think of what would happen to discourse! People would have to come up with their own arguments and back it up with facts.

      Then again, you’re right. People don’t have time to do all that. But maybe they’d at least recognize that they can’t form an opinion, which is better than having one with no real knowledge.

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      • Absolute objectivity in reporting –

        I would be shocked if people actually liked such a thing. Organization of facts into a narrative is done with bias, editing is bias, perception is bias, deciding who to quote and for how long is bias. Deciding what is and isn’t relevant is bias. Anything short of just playing unmodified and randomly dispersed recordings is bias.

        It’s my experience that you don’t want an unbiased media outlet, but you do want an honest one.

        Thanks for the interesting article. 🙂

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        • Yes, I agree. Often the best reporting is in 1st person from a biased POV. I just want those details more than anything. In fact, in this very case, the reporting was very biased yet closer to the case and that’s what made it interesting to me.

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          • A way to avoid “bias” I’ve found is simply to get your news from overseas sources. They will be biased as well, since that’s really unavoidable, but they won’t have emotional investments in the partisan B.S. that a domestic source will.

            This isn’t a slam on US media, either. US coverage of, say, British politics, is likely to be much better than British outlets for the simple reason the US outlets aren’t as invested.

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  6. As someone who worked in mass media (and occasionally still does), it’s the fault of the consumer. There is thoughtful news, great analysis and detailed reporting – it just doesn’t sell very well. Think of the number of people you see reading a copy of People vs. the number of people you see reading a copy of The Economist.

    I think that we philosophers, novelists and bloggers need to remind ourselves that all the profundity in the world won’t last unless people want to read it. A combination of meaning and sweetness is needed. No meaning and we have kitsch. No sweetness and we are simply pumping out three cycles’ ago academic papers.

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