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Published:February 5th, 2006 11:24 EST
TMI: A Student's View On The Oversaturation Of News

TMI: A Student's View On The Oversaturation Of News

By Chris Coplan

As a journalism student, I am expected to keep my mouth shut and listen.  This is only my second year, they will say, what do I know about how the media works?  Well, I know I'm talkative (why else would I be a Comm major?) and I can think for myself.  With that said, for all the appreciation and adoration I have for mass communication, especially everyone's favorite CNN, if I could say one thing to the heads of the major broadcasting and print conglomerates, it'd have to be...

Move on!

In the recent weeks, the world population at large has been shaken to its core over the utter destruction and devastation left in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.  Never before has a natural disaster left so many dead, homeless and with little to no hope.  Obviously, with all the human suffering and worry of the next great eco-tragedy, people from across the globe have been tuned in to watch it all unfold.  The media did its job, and then some.  It is that "then some" part that has me so agitated.  In my minimal and narrow view of the role of media, I see newspapers, TV, the Internet, etc. as a way to receive info.  Global and local issues, sports, weather, business, etc.  I do not see it as a way to make people feel bad or to point the blame.  While editorializing is a key factor in what makes the news go round, it is not the job of CNN, MSNBC, Fox News or even my local ABC affiliate to share their opinion in matters like tragedies and breaking news.  It is one thing to inform people of the status of New Orleans, or that the FEMA director has been re-assigned to Washington.  However, once Andersen Cooper starts telling me that he is sad the way things have played out, or gives me some sappy piece on how New Orleans was the place his father was born... I have to draw the line.  You see, your job is to inform us of what is going on in the world.  Tell us what is going on, when, why and who is involved.  The emotional, humanist side is just not necessary.  That is reserved for Blogs and editorial columns in newspapers, as well as TV and radio talk shows.  The men and women of CNN and other global news networks have a duty to their audience to simply inform.  Once they begin to humanize news, you break one of the cardinal rules of journalism: Don't pick a side.  Ever.  The job of a journalist (and this is only a logical guess) is to stay in the middle.  Once we, as individuals, inject our thoughts and feelings into something as important and easily manipulated as news, we create a biased reality and make peoples opinions slant one way, when a "perfect" journalist allows people to form thoughts and opinions for themselves.  Some may say that my stance removes the emotion from news casting; that without a touch of soul, we leave out one of the most vital parts to truly impactful broadcasting.  There is a difference in having emotion and just being emotional.  Put yourself into the story, to the fullest extent, but don't make it overtly sentimental, where you're looking for sympathy or are in a rage and pointing fingers.  We should let humans use their natural reasoning power to decide what hurts or inspires them.  When journalists slant, they take away a basic freedom we, as people, have to evaluate what happens in the world and react the way we want.  When this "EmotiNews" is all we see and hear, we are making a world where we stop people from thinking for themselves.  As well, the news itself becomes diluted.  Gone is pure fact, replaced with things programmed to make us smile or frown on a command like Pavlov's Dog.

However, what do we do?  Is it too late to save our precious news, and to recover from a mushy barrage of cheap and deceptive news segments about the man who lost his prized goat in Hurricane Rita?  No, but it will be difficult.  Throughout the mountain ranges in Pakistan, a devastating Earthquake has killed over 30,000 people in just a day or so, with the death toll expected to rise to at least 80,000.  To recover from our journalistic pandemic, its time to rise from the ashes and treat this story the way it deserves.  Yes, this is one of the most atrocious and heartbreaking natural disasters in my-- and many others-- life spans, but if the various powerhouses of print and broadcast truly wants to help, they can do their job: We want facts.  Don't convolute your paper or TV station with enough emotional segments or articles to sink a ship, tell us what is going on.  That is all. Who is doing what, what is happening, how the public is affected, etc.  You have a responsibility to share with us what is going on, and we look to you for facts and information.  We don't need to be guided to the truth, we just need someone who can rise above the trivial nonsense and fluff pieces to give us straightforward and forthright info.  I may never see the day that journalism goes away from the obscene and disturbing use of emotion, but I have faith one day we can all turn on the TV or read the paper and see what is so very lacking from our Earth culture: truth and integrity.