After getting replaced by Anderson Cooper Aaron Brown says that TV news viewers click away from intellectually heavy news stories.
Brown said he tried to give viewers a balanced diet of light and serious news with NewsNight. "But I always knew when I got to the Brussels sprouts, I was on thin ice," he said.
When NewsNight spent four hours covering the arrest of actor Robert Blake for the murder of his wife, Brown received thousands of e-mails criticizing the amount of time the show spent on the story. Nevertheless, that show, which aired in April 2002, received the highest ratings of any program since NewsNight's coverage of the November 2001 crash of American Airlines flight 587.
"Television is the most perfect democracy," Brown said. "You sit there with your remote control and vote." The remotes click to another channel when serious news airs, but when the media covers the scandals surrounding Laci Peterson, the Runaway Bride or Michael Jackson, "there are no clicks then," the journalist said.
Over half the US population have IQs below 100 and the percentage of lower IQ people is growing. So what does he expect? Any coverage that attempts to explain the complex causes of events goes over the heads of at least three quarters of the public. Most people just can't handle that much complexity and see no reason to put themselves through intellectual workouts when watching the news.
Also, my guess is that smarter people in America are either watching C-SPAN or financial news or, more likely, get their news from reading. TV news tends to appeal to those who do not want to read or can not read (Peter Sellers as Chance the Gardener/Chauncey Gardiner: "I like to watch TV").
The irony about Aaron Brown pining for the old pre-cable days when the regular nightly news anchors ruled the air is that the famous nightly news anchors of previous decades in America (Walter Cronkite, Dan Rather, etc) were not brilliant men. They were smarter than average. But they did not have special insights and there was never a great renaissance in TV news reporting. The skills required to make appealing news anchors never overlapped well with the skills needed to understand economics, history, science, technology, and other areas which can provide real understanding.
Then there are problems in human cognition aside from IQ. People get a drug-like high from shutting down their reasoning facilities in support of their political tribe. So Fox News functions to give junkies their fixes. So does partisan coverage on other news channels. You can't appeal to addicts with reason. They want their partisan fix.
|Share |||By Randall Parker at 2006 January 28 02:00 PM Media Critique|