"The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter." -Thomas Jefferson
The news is pervasive in today's media in a way it never has been before. 24 hour news networks and streaming mobile feeds have made news a constant part of life whether we like it or not. However, it was not always like this. There was a time when celebrities and athletes were not the most important public figures in our lives. There was a time where news was more than a laundry list of murders and instigators of racial stereotypes and hatreds.
For this discussion, I will begin with the Pony Express in America as it was the first major step towards national news in US history. The Express was a system of mail delivery carriers who carried both personal letters and newspapers. Keep in mind that many newspapers at this time were single paged and single sided, so there could be a lot of copies carried by an individual postal rider. The papers typically had the most important news of the time such as prominent political opinions, national news and regional interests.
Much later, newspapers turned into a huge mass of paper with specialized sections and became extremely focused on being local. Then, came television. At first, TV news was the most important pert of American television. It was viewed as a public service for TV owners in order to relate important information such as weather and natural disaster alerts.
By its very nature, the news has scarcely been used for positive ideas. Today's news is filled with crime, fires and depressing national events. They seek to criticize everyone not meeting their parent company's political ideals as their talking heads promote these same politics in a way this is obvious to the educated few. Now the news is nothing more than a way spread the political values of rich studio heads, not to mention the advertising involved.
The nightly news, in terms of content, follows the script of most reality TV shows. 1) Show a preview of what will be on tonight's episode. 2) Show a tiny snippet of actual content followed by a preview of the next snippet. 3) Review what just happened, show another tiny snippet of content, and preview the next. Rinse and repeat. By the time you are done with all the previews and commercials, the amount of actual content in the news for an average hour long news program is likely maybe 20 minutes of news. Don't forget the sports reporting at the tail end of the program. Roughly a third of a nightly news program is dedicated to sports reporting. I italicize because what is sports reporting other than more advertising!? Sports do just fine without extra advertising to promote them. Besides, when did sports become such an important part of our lives that they became news? I personally do not care enough about them to answer that question.
Also, when did Americans become so obsessed with celebrities? Some might say that Elvis and Marilyn Monroe, celebrities that were practically created out of thin air, may have been the start of it all. It saddens me to see how the news is now filled with celebrity gossip and loads of other irrelevant information. Seriously, a celebrity gaining weight or having a kid or getting a divorce is not only none of my business, but does not affect my life the slightest bit.
What was at one time one of the only sources of important information in this country has become a mockery. News today is nothing more than carefully disguised political direction and advertising rather than sources of relevant information. It is a shame that today's Americans have virtually no source outside of the classroom to gain meaningful knowledge with which they can better themselves and become better citizens.