Televison News Tricks // Nick Goodpaster

Go home tonight and turn on the evening news. As you watch, count the amount of top stories that involve some sort of crime or disaster, and compare that number with the amount of top stories about events with a positive effect on the community. My guess is that the former will greatly outweigh the former. Whether or not we notice it, television media news plays tricks on us all the time. Knowing that the viewers will watch whatever is on the news, no matter how wild it may seem, news anchors spin stories left and right, adding intensity as they go, to ensure that their viewers are thrilled. And for Americans today, thrill goes hand in hand with fear, something that greatly benefits television news producers.

Cartoon portraying the fallacies in television news (Telnaes).

So in the end, crime wins out over other calmer stories because both sides are satisfied. However, this presents many problems, as it proves for misconceptions on how violent the community around viewers really is. And as television news stations over-exaggerate crime, violence, and disaster, other and possibly more harmful dangers, such as the processes used on factory farms are lurking without much attention.

On factory farms around the country, antibiotics are used increase the growth rate of animals. However, Farm Sanctuary, Inc. reports that “using antibiotics in this way can lead to drug-resistant bacteria; as a result, certain bacterial infections have already become or are on their way to becoming untreatable in humans. Antibiotic resistant infections kill 90,000 Americans every year” (Factory). These farming practices kill 90 thousand people a year, yet many Americans are completely unaware that they even take place. Not having the knowledge of the dangerous things that might be in the meat we purchase every day, could have very harmful repercussions.

Graph E Coli counts in animals from factory farms (E-Coli).

Another interesting fact is that the FBI only reported just 13,716 murders in 2013 (Crime). So the amount of deaths in America by murder is a mere %15 of the amount of American deaths per year from antibiotic resistant infection. However, the bigger problem than that is that the amount of news airtime these two causes of death receive is heavily skewed in favor of murder. And the sad reasoning for this, is that murder and violence is more sensational and more thrilling than factory farms. If people are watching the news every night to become informed of the current events occurring around them and in America, they should be shown issues like the immorality of factory farms, and the dangers they possess, rather than a string of crimes that are more than likely heavily inflated.

Television news media lives so much for sensational stories that when crime rates go down, they vamp up their coverage to make up for the drop. In a documentary called Bowling For Columbine, by Michael Moore, author Barry Glassner explains that in his research he found that when, “‘the murder rate had gone down by 20%, the coverage, that is how many murders are on the news, went up by 600%”’ (Bowling). So even with the drop of crime rate in America, a very positive idea, news stations feel the need to exaggerate stories and report on smaller crimes that have no real impact on the community. As a result, viewers begin to think less of their neighbors and the communities around them, afraid that they may experience a similar situation if they open up to anyone. In an interview in Bowling For Columbine, Arthur Busch, a county prosecutor in Flint, Michigan, explains these side effects, stating that “‘the American people are conditioned by network TV and by local news to believe that their communities, are much more dangerous than they actually are. For example, here in [Flint, Michigan], crime has decreased every year for the past eight years, yet gun ownership, and particularly handgun ownership, is on the increase.’” The unnecessary extra coverage puts the community in a harsh life, and has also leads to this increase in gun ownership, as more and more people feel the need to defend themselves. With more guns out on the streets, the news media, is indirectly doing more to create a harmful atmosphere, than they are directly doing to produce news that should protect their viewers.

When there are dangers to the community, the television news community sees it as their job to inform the public on what it is and what to do. However, in America today, the television news, does not succeed with this goal. Instead of reporting on issues like factory farms, whose unsanitary and inhumane practices are the cause of 90 thousand American deaths a year, they sensationalize reports on murder and crime to scare their viewers.

Cartoon depicting television news’ true purpose. (Hawkins)

The television news scene over recent years has changed from one of the few places to get reliable news, into just another form of entertainment. If people are looking for a thrill, they should turn to action movies and television shows, where the thrill is purposeful, and leave the television news networks without viewers. But if people are looking for important and up to date news, I suggest watching more informative news stations like CNN, who I have noticed in my research, reports on unbiased news and events from the US as well as around the world. This would allow people to keep the false and spun stories and ideas out of their heads, and allows them to focus on the events with greater effect. The fallacies and stretched topics on local evening news shows creates misconceptions by viewers that they are educated on the top events of the day and what affects them the most. Yet by paying so much attention to this mainstream news, viewers develop an apathy towards controversial issues like factory farms, instead of a greater understanding.

Works Cited:

Bowling For Columbine. Dir. Michael Moore. Perf. Michael Moore. Dog Eat Dog Films, 2002.

“Crime in the United States 2013.” The Federal Bureau of Investigation. n. p., 2013. Web. 18 Mar. 2015.

“E-Coli Count Much Higher in Grainfed Animals.” EatWild. Web. 18 Mar. 2015.

“Factory Farming and Human Health.” Farm Sanctuary. Farm Sanctuary, Inc., 2014. Web. 18 Mar. 2015.

Hawkins, Jonny. “Here’s Brad With the News to Scare the Crap Out of You.” 2014. Cartoon Stock. Web. 18 Mar. 2015.

Telnaes, Ann. “Ann Telnaes’ Editorial Cartoons.” 2007. Cartoonist Group. Web. 18 Mar. 2015.


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