March 18, 2005

Pretty lights

Since I don't watch TV very much, I think I consciously notice a lot of things about a show that I'd just take for granted if I watched more often.

For example, this morning I had the opportunity (misfortune?) to catch a bit of FoxNews at the local coffeeshop where I did a bit of studying.

It's a very distracting way to get your news. First, there's a lot of cutting between scenes and speakers. You never spend too much time continuously with one person or place or thing. Next, you're often trying to listen to one guy while watching a cool video clip and reading whatever's scrolling across the bottom of the screen. Third, the producers often make the distraction worse by splitting the screen up into three or four little boxes, one of which shows the host, another shows the guest, a third shows a cool video clip, and the fourth (the background) shows some moving graphic or series of shifting colored lights. Add in the scrolling words across the bottom and it's a really pretty thing when seen from a distance. Pretty, but distracting.

It's been said before a million times, but it seems obvious that a medium like this would have a very hard time conveying anything that required sustained concentration to understand. "Man dies. President speaks. Defendant convicted." Stuff like that might survive all the pretty lights, but what about an argument about Social Security? No way would anything other than "private accounts good" or "private accounts bad" seep through all the distractions.

How many hours do people spend watching news shows on TV? How many people get their news primarily from the TV? I'd like to see a study relating people's understanding of political controversies to their relative dependance on TV news shows. My suspicion is that the more TV news we watch, the less we understand what we're watching.

Posted by Carey at March 18, 2005 01:53 PM

Hey Carey,

What are we required to go to for the symposium stuff?

Posted by: Meredith at March 18, 2005 02:05 PM

I would agree with you about Fox News, certainly. Ever notice how you're seeing more and more of it in coffeeshops, airports, etc. What happened to CNN? Frankly, the Daily Show is even a better source of news than that crap.

Posted by: Larry at March 19, 2005 02:13 AM

I wasn't trying to single out FoxNews, although I'm sure that it's leading the charge against any kind of journalistic standards.

Even the greatest journalistic standards in the world wouldn't be enough to convey much nuance, given the format Fox and CNN are using now.

I'd like to think that TV itself isn't a barrier to good reporting of complicated things, but is that true? Is the News Hour with Jim Lehrer any less superficial than CNN or Fox?

Posted by: Carey at March 19, 2005 07:25 AM

I don't know, I rarely watch the News Hour. The problem with the half-hour or hour news shows is they simply don't have time for nuance. The 24-hour news stations do have time, and it would be cool if one of these stations were to switch to hour-long presentations on individual issues. Foxnews, to its credit, actually did stuff like this once in awhile. Of course, the whole hour is generally devoted to presenting the issue from its biased right-wing slant, but no one's perfect :) (I saw a show they did on environmental issues, I wanted to shoot the TV). Listen to NPR I guess.

Posted by: Larry at March 19, 2005 12:15 PM


my question: foxnews (or any other tv news show) vis-a-vis what? whtat other media do you propose provide better/more accurate/less distracting news? radio? newspaper? internet?


Posted by: ulteriorepicure at March 21, 2005 11:04 AM

U.E.: All of these can, at their best, do it better than T.V. The problem, of course, is that they're often not at their best...

Posted by: Carey at March 21, 2005 02:07 PM




Posted by: ulteriorepicure at March 21, 2005 04:29 PM