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First take/cable news

When opportunity has arisen, I have offered some advice about news consumption that, it appears, is something President Obama already does. And that, of course, since everything he does or doesn’t do is subject to criticism from someone, he’s been blasted for it.

A quote made its way into news reports, from a supposedly off the record session (and he probably should have known that nothing is ever entirely off the record these days), that Obama said something the effect that he “doesn’t watch TV” or “doesn’t watch cable news”. We know he “watches TV” at least to some extent – he’s spoken of watching sports events and various TV series – but the reference seems to refer to the cable news channels.

Journalist James Fallows, who was there, tried without getting too specific to suggest the context for the statement: “Obama’s no-TV comment might be part of a larger argument about how permanent-emergency coverage affects a society’s ability to figure out what to be afraid of, and how afraid to be.”

Probably that’s about right, and if it is, Obama and Fallows are spot on.

When 24/7 cable TV news started back in the 80s I thought it might be a highly beneficial way of better informing the public. Foolish me. Serious journalism is expensive; filling in time and pixels with talking heads and graphic shrieks that pound home the never-ending constant emergency is a lot cheaper and, it turns out, brings in some numbers.

They seem to be doing that a little less successfully now than they once did, since some of the numbers of this garbage of the airwaves seems to be dropping. One can only hope.

One more word from a reader, which Fallows highlighted in his piece:

“I never watch “cable news”. Never. Never. Never. That includes CNN, MSNBC and Fox. The whole idea of “cable news” is toxic in my mind. The first thing that I do when I get a new TV provider is to delete those channels from the list that I cycle thru when I do any channel surfing.”

Advice for the day, the week, the decade: Do likewise. Those channels have become civic poison. – rs

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