Tuesday, October 19, 2010

How to Watch TV News by Neil Postman & Steven Powers

Although a bit dated (1992), this was a great overview and reminder of how TV news works and how careful one should be when exposed to it. I quick light media analysis so it was worthwhile to burn through the audio version.
Key points:
-Think more about how TV watches you, how the selection of content depends upon the demographic viewing
-What is news? Omission is always present. They suggest imaging that the biases and backgrounds of the background of the owners, anchor and reporters being stated up front.
-One reporter said he could manufacture a crime wave by simply reporting all the crime that occurs in a day, and stop it by simply stopping the reporting.
-Morning news shows almost try to provide a family
-The Weather person is of prime importance (this is one of the most viewed segments)
-There is no context given for events because there isn’t space. Newspapers sometimes print more pages, but there is no going over time.
-There is a high turnover of news directors, who many journalists say that it is them who decides what is news.
-Increased use of press releases.
-Sound bites have decreased over time, from the 50s and 60s to the present.
-A good discussion of the validity of recreations.
-They stress the biases of language and pictures. A judgement has been made for every word and every picture. TV cannot show abstraction. Consequently, things like fire are great news. Change is happening while you watch. TV itself cannot provide depth.
-The absurdity of commercials, especially after serious news is presented. You watch a story about an earthquake that has killed 100s and destroyed the lives of 1000s… and now toothpaste. Such is our consumerist society, but the notion that you are in any mood to consume toothpaste indicates the seriousness of the earthquake is not absorbed.
-A news show is a show
-Final advice: watch less TV, read more, think more, and reduce the number of opinions you feel you should have.


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