According to a Gallup poll in December of 2004, 51 percent of Americans get their news from television, while only 44 percent venture to read newspapers or other periodicals. Let’s face it – Americans are lazy. We communicate via the Internet, instead of making the extra effort to personally contact people. We rely on Web sites for our research instead of going to the library and practicing traditional techniques. And, we lavish ourselves in the technological American dream of relaxing in front of the television with a beer and controlling lights, music and television with the touch of a button.
It’s really not surprising that the majority of Americans rely on television for their news, since it is an easily accessible medium. However, doesn’t that mean that the industry has an obligation to its viewers to supply them with accurate, relevant and important news?
Are the American people not bound in a social contract with the television industry, where they supply us with actual news, and we in return supply them with a viewership and, therefore, revenue?
It seems, especially as of late, that television news functions as a segmented reality series, only each channel serves their own version. If we wanted, we could watch the same story narrated with a slightly different spin all day, every day. Martha Stewart and Michael Jackson have been our recent favorite reality characters, as we follow their respective criminalities with a surreal perspective. We watched Martha leave prison on March 4 with her daughter by her side, and have been focused on the restrictions imposed by the court ever since. Jackson’s controversial physical appearance and testimony has engaged our attention. Televisions in rooms across the nation beam “Day [insert number here] of the Jackson proceedings” like a car commercial advertising the new low rates. Where is the attention to the real issues?
Obviously, government corruption and what is actually going on in Iraq is not going to make it to the forefront of television news. The American people do not want to believe that there are major issues in their government or that their own family members are committing extreme crimes ordered by the government. But, don’t viewers have a right to know about these issues?
Perhaps we have brought this distance between hard news and soft news upon ourselves through our obsession with reality television, laziness and general political apathy, but that does not excuse the severing of the social contract.
The average American who does not read the newspaper as often as they watch television deserves to learn about the events that will directly affect their lives – and not just about the seemingly interesting entertainment-styled issues.
Katz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.