Have the events of 9/11 changed the way TV covers the news? It appears the answer is yes and no, according to this story in the Los Angeles Times. I found this part interesting:
“As for the cable news universe, CNN decided its mission would henceforth be serious news. ‘I think Sept. 11 showed us that the world really matters and covering it in a straight and honest way is a good mission to have,’ said Walter Isaacson, CNN News Group chairman. ‘It’s reinvigorated us and allowed us to follow our passion, which is journalism.'”
Huh? I have to wonder about a group chairman who apparently had so little clue about the mission of a news operation. But then his job isn’t to lead a news operation in a journalistic mission. Rather, his job is to keep ratings high. This paragraph followed:
“Audiences had other ideas, however. While all cable networks have more viewers than a year ago, audiences have favored Fox News Channel, which pursues an opposite strategy; its schedule is filled with opinion-laced shows that more closely resemble talk radio. It surged into first place among cable news networks several months after the attacks and has stayed there. That prompted MSNBC to follow suit, with its own opinion-driven schedule. The attacks ‘re-energized cable news and carved out a new audience of people so totally into this story,’ said NBC News President Neal Shapiro.”
Or, perhaps, re-energized cable entertainment. The simplistic, polemic presentation that most cable opinion shows give to complex situations hardly qualifies as news or useful commentary. Ken Waters, a journalism professor at Pepperdine University quoted in the article, gives TV news a ‘C’ for its coverage, saying there is “an awareness of a need, and some attempts to improve. But I think they have a ways to go.” To that I say: Grade inflation!