I was at a friend’s apartment the other night and on the TV set was CNN’s Headline news. The story for twenty solid minutes: Casey Anthony. A woman who allegedly killed her 3-year-old daughter1. There was not one mention of Lehman Brothers collapse, or the Merrill Lynch buyout. For twenty solid minutes, all that was seen was people commenting on Casey Anthony, protesters standing outside her home and Nancy Grace yelling annoying to the audience.
Lehman Brothers, unable to find a buyer, is on its way to bankruptcy. Merrill Lynch was also in trouble, but was offered to be bought out by Bank of America. These two firms join the ranks of Bear Stearns whose collapse prompted a buyout by JPMorganChase2. In 2008 alone, eleven banks have failed according to the FDIC, the highest number of bank failures in a year since 20023.
News coverage during prime time seems to be for fluff pieces that do nothing but distract the viewing public from the real issues that are currently facing the world. Even during the recently election coverage, the agenda seems to be set by the Democratic and Republican Parties. Most networks simply repeat what each candidate says or does, supporting their respective left or leaning bends, without critically analyzing statements or positions; in effect simply acting as an arm of a new generation of viewers which are happy with what some have labeled edutainment.
Are large media giants simply extensions of the same corporate backing powers that funnel money to individual campaigns and candidates, or are motives for recently global news coverage simply a response to viewer demands and ratings for news that is less depressing and more inline with what the audience desires to watch. Tom Engelhardt who runs the website tomdispatch.com spoke about the necessity of the media in a recent interview with Pepe Escobar of TheRealNews.com
If we completely gave up on it, there’s a lot of information I wouldn’t have, because the fact is in bits and pieces things are covered everywhere and often covered fairly well. I mean, to give you just one example, to me the great and obvious story of the Bush years in Washington has been the expansion of the Pentagon. It’s expanded in every way because the Bush people put such emphasis on the military. And this is Nick’s great subject, of course. And that expansion has been covered bit by bit. The budgetary part, the weapons trading, you know, various aspects of it have been covered in the mainstream media, and yet it took TomDispatch and a woman named Frida Berrigan, who’s an arms expert, to do a piece that should have been on the front page of The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal, part of a series on the overall expansion of the Pentagon. You can’t find that anywhere. It’s just not there, even though it is one of the two or three most striking aspects of what’s happened in the Bush years here4.
The main stream media does at time report relevant information in a world context, but it is mixed in a hodge-podge of other distractions. Pundit shows simply take the news and elaborate on it loudly in one sided directions to better pundits’ irrelevant positions. In a sense, independent blogs do about the same thing. It is beyond the ability of many independent journalists to actually fly or drive to major events and cover topics. Many political bloggers start their analysis out of outrage in an attempt to have their views and justifications for those views heard, even if they’d be predominately heard by audience that would agree with them.
1 Mom of Missing Fla. Toddler out of Jail Again. Associated Press. September 17, 2008.
2 Lehman failure, Bank of America/Merrill Lynch buyout shake Wall Street again Messmer. Network World. September 15, 2008.
3 FDIC: Failed Bank List Retrieved September 19, 2009
4 Tom Dispatch on Bush and the Media Escobar. TheRealNews. June 17, 2008.