web counter Media Lies: Will cable TV replace old media?

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

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Will cable TV replace old media?

At home I have cable, but it's only the "A" channel. I only have access to the Discovery Channel (which I really enjoy), TBS and WGN, along with all the local channels and many local cable channels. So I don't to see the Fox News Channel, MSNBC, CNN and all the "chatter" shows that go on. (I pay for it because the reception is better than an antenna.) Now that I'm on vacation, I've been spending some time watching some of the shows, and I must say, I'm not impressed.

Most of the "talk" shows (like Scarborough Country, Hannity and Colmes, etc are just "talking point" shows as far as I can tell. There isn't any substantive discussion going on. I suppose there's some merit to having people on different sides of an issue responding to the same points, but in the end nothing substantive gets done. Each side talks past the other, stressing the points they want to make without any real evidence to back them up, and repeating the same charges over and over again. Both the moderators and the "debaters" interrupt each other constantly, bringing rudeness to a new level of sophistication.

In addition, because the shows really don't deal with substantive issues in any meaningful way, they "cover" a lot of ground in a short period of time. This leaves the "news" portions of the channels with a shortage of material to cover, so they cross over into "National Enquirer" sorts of stories. Thus we get in-depth reports about the Scott and Laci Peterson story (does anyone really care about that trial?), lots of "coverage" of celebrities (and who cares about what they are doing?) and extensive sessions with "experts" who pontificate endlessly on their area of "expertise" without providing a shred of evidence that they know what they're talking about.

Now we have wall to wall "coverage" of debates that haven't even taken placed yet, with endless streams of know-it-alls explaining what each candidate must do or avoid doing in order to "win" the debate. Frankly, I could care less. The fact is the candidates will debate and people watching will decide for themselves who "won" and who "lost" and make their decisions (if they haven't already made them) based on the debates and what they think of the candidates.

Then there's the polls. Inspect, dissect, retrospect, introspect ad nauseum, ad infinitim. Many years ago someone (I don't recall who) said that TV was "a vast wasteland". If that's true, cable TV has simply expanded the size and scope of the waste.

As much as old media likes to mock bloggers, I think the internet holds the greatest promise for informing the public. There we can get our "news" unfiltered and unadulterated, often wrong and frequently corrected, and we can crosscheck the stories ourselves, read different points of view of the same events and judge for ourselves where the "truth" lies.

I won't be paying for cable (or satellite) any time soon.