Almost every day, I take a break or two from my PC, where I'm constantly monitoring social media, and I check out CNN, MSNBC, and Fox news or, if it's the right time of day, the network news on ABC, CBS and NBC. I'm always appalled by what I see on TV news. It's pathetic.
Here's what's so bad about TV news:
Each TV news program covers just a tiny number of stories, about which they provide almost no detail and which are clearly selected to advance the careers of the people running the network at the expense of the public interest. Each network pretends to be the viewer's only source of news, which is absurd. And cable news channels cover those same stories one program after the next. The president said this. The congress did that. The Republicans this. The Democrats that. Other than Iran, Israel, Iraq, Russia and occasionally Mexico and China, the world doesn't exist on TV news.
TV news is old. Anchors introduce a new story as if it's breaking news, and my reaction is almost always, "they're still covering that?"
Far too many cable shows revolve around a single person who spends the entire program hard-selling a political viewpoint and a self-promoting book.
The only thing TV news does better than social media is to display higher quality pictures and video. Otherwise, TV news is just like the Internet as a news source, after you take away user control, alternative opinions, timeliness and 99% of the stories.
The networks know this. That's why in the past year they've all bent over backwards to try to co-opt social media to create the illusion of relevance. But, as the Internet meme goes, they're "doing it wrong!"
A typical scenario goes something like this. CNN's Wolf Blitzer is doing his clumsy "Situation Room" shtick, and kicks it over to Jack Cafferty for a regular segment called the "Cafferty File." Cafferty runs through his no-jacket, hard-working reporter routine by spouting some shamelessly populist opinion, then asks viewers what they think about the issue, closing as always with, "you can post your comments on my blog." A tiny fraction of those comments, hand-selected by Cafferty, will show up on a future segment designed not to shed new light on the issue or call Cafferty to task, but ultimately to market Jim Cafferty and CNN.
Instead of leveraging social media's ability to illuminate consensus, and surface all relevant views on an issue, the TV networks like CNN do the opposite. They ignore the consensus, they exploit the Web merely as a source for them to cherry pick self-serving viewer opinions. You don't need the Internet for that, and that's not what the Internet is good for.
If TV news wants to really leverage social media and become timely, relevant and engaging in the process they're going to have to take some control away from their over-paid "personalities," and hand it over to their viewers. Here's how:
Of course, I don't expect the TV new media to do any of these things. The medium is the message, and the number-one objective of any organization is to blindly pursue the interests of the organization itself. TV networks need their advertising dollars, and believe that the only way to make money is to be phony, non-responsive propaganda machines that barely cover the news and spend half their time on self-promotion.
Fine. Just don't expect me to watch. I'll be getting the real news on Twitter.