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Sensationalizing media possible with current news media

For the last two weeks the world has hung on every breath, lead, false lead and smidgen of information about the Malaysian Airlines jet that has mysteriously disappeared.

This is a story that will more than likely end in tragedy and that is truly awful. Any loss of life is catastrophic for the survivors and of course, the victims themselves.

Despite this story that so far defines mystery, I am somewhat discomfited with the news coverage.

I would like to take you back in time to both the Good Old Days and the Bad Old Days. This column is about the Good Old Days.

These were the days when television news outlets reported news, not just sensationalism followed by hyperbole. Yes, the television news of old had its share of fluff and hype, but studies have shown that more actual news was reported. I can also personally attest to this.

The first perpetrator of this new kind of reporting is the local news.

There are still fantastic reporters who report breaking news and occasionally talk about policy, but the windswept reporter trumping up two inches of snow still is all the rage.

The worse trend though is the non-stop crime reporting. All urban areas have crime – some more than others.

To watch your local television news though, one would think America is in a record crime wave. The facts, though, illustrate that is not the case.

While I can accept the local news tilting this way, to see it creep into national television news has me very upset.

I grew up in any era when the nightly national news was required viewing and CNN was truly a treasure. Politics, domestic policy, foreign policy and big new stories were reported.

Yes, there was one slice-of-life story at the end of the broadcast, but it was just a feel-good tagline.

Today, the whole half-hour broadcast seems to minimalize politics and focus on health, personal care and tragedy.

Why do the networks and local news do this? It works.

People get wrapped up in calamity, personal stories and crime.

These stories have almost no effect on their lives, as politics does, but that is no matter.

Even a politics junkie like me gets reeled in occasionally. I watched The O.J. Simpson trial in earnest and am guilty of enjoying the over-the-top kind of reporting I am criticizing here.

I actually find it entertaining in a purely prurient way. I am aware though that I am watching something other than news though. I really wonder how many recognize they are being peddled this tripe, though.

This brings me back to the missing Malaysian jumbo jet. This is a news story for sure. This is also very likely a tragedy.

One thing it is not is a story worthy of constant news coverage when there is nothing new to report.

Yes, the 24 hour news cycle feeds into this, but there still are countless stories that are being virtually ignored.

The curtailing of voting and abortion rights are rarely examined, the growing problem of economic equality is being ignored.

These are stories that far outweigh the missing plane in terms of national importance.

It is time to demand better news coverage. The big three networks are constantly in a state of denial as to why their ratings keep declining. The change anchors, graphics and their focus.

Maybe it is time to focus on real news. Maybe, just maybe, their ratings numbers will rise.

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