Ryan Chartrand

Tonight on cable news: a bunch of stuff you really don’t need to know.

So that may not seem like a breaking story, but it’s certainly becoming more and more true.

With about 1,056 minutes to fill every day, cable’s three main news channels – CNN, Fox and MSNBC – have evolved into entertainment broadcasts rather than informative sources. They will do anything to hook viewers, often turning to flashy titles, ridiculous interview subjects and shallow stories that hardly have an impact on society.

As journalism students on the brink of careers in the media, we are disappointed with how the industry is sliding away from its foundation. In our first journalism classes, we are led to believe that we are here to inform the people – that’s our responsibility. News is only news if it contains the elements like impact, conflict, novelty, prominence, proximity and timeliness.

While many stories featured on cable news may contain at least one of these elements, stations sensationalize them to extremes just to get higher ratings.

Suddenly, JonBenet’s murder suspect flying on business class to the United States is deemed breaking news. Good Lord, he drank champagne too? Heighten the security levels from yellow to orange!

As usual, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart nailed this point better than we could: “Let me explain something to you about the algebra, if you will, of cable news. Three-year war in Iraq is less than the 30-day-old bombing in Lebanon, which is less than exploding Gatorade on a plane, all of which is apparently chicken sh-t next to the break in the 10-year-old murder case. Yes, apparently a suspect has been named in the case of the killing of JonBenet Ramsey or, as she is known to cable news, oxygen.”

To fill up time and emphasize the “importance” of stories, these networks often interview anyone who knows anything.

Unfortunately, in their haste, these stations ultimately interview friends who barely know what’s going on or, worse, other journalists. While a Washington Post reporter may have written some stories about the conflict in the Middle East, they are journalists being interviewed in the United States. Their families were not affected by recent conflict; their homes were not ravaged by bombs; and they didn’t write a best-selling book that exposed underlying reasons for why the war is escalating in the first place. In other words, it’s taking the easy way out.

Could you imagine reading an article in The New York Times that quotes Nancy Grace as a legitimate news source?

Ah, Nancy Grace – that’s another problem with cable news stations. During the primetime hours, instead of highlighting the day’s top stories or doing in-depth analyses of issues, they feature Showbiz Tonight, The O’Reilly Factor and Nancy Grace. Essentially, instead of taking the day’s biggest platform to inform the public, the cable news stations use them to make issues out of non-issues. Why? Because it’s entertainment.

Again, these stations are sacrificing their roles as public informants to bring you the latest on the state of Britney Spears’ marriage. Is it threatening the sanctity of marriage in the United States?

Probably, but let’s worry about the sanctity of broadcast journalism first.

Editorials reflect the opinion of the Mustang Daily.

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