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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The Dumbing Down of America

Frontline (on PBS) has been doing a series on the news that has been terribly fascinating.  Last night they presented several disturbing facts about our society.  Since the advent of the television program "60 Minutes", the networks have discovered that it is possible to make news profitable.  Until that program aired, each network was responsible for presenting the news as required by their contracts to use the airwaves to the benefit of the public.  But when news could be entertaining, it could be profitable.  And ever since that time, news has taken a nose dive in content and quality.

80 to 90 percent of the real news reported in all venues (from the internet to television) is a retelling of news gathered by the news papers. Yet newspapers in every city are on the verge of financial bankruptcy (I don't know about this particular point...).  The point is that if there is real news being reported by real reporters, it is coming from the newspapers.  Yet the younger generation is retreating from reported news in droves, turning to blogs and other internet sources who report with well known bias.  Again, these sources are selling entertainment to turn a profit.

The most popular news program is not a news program at all.  It is the "Daily Show" with Jon Stewart on Comedy Central, a cable television program.  A test given to measure political awareness given to a group of young people underscored this fact.  Those scoring the highest on the test claimed their only news source was this particular program.  I admit that I watch and enjoy Jon Stewart.  But this is entertainment!

The other most popular "news" programs by far are not those that do commentary and not news.  Shows like The Oreilly Factor tend to pull the most viewers.  These feature commentators who present their opinion on the news and not the news itself.  Stories are presented from either the left or right wing perspective. They are spiteful, mean, and flagrantly paint a biased opinion to inflame their viewers to anger towards an imaginary opposition.

The bottom line in the presentation was that news, for the most part, is very hard to find these days. The American appetite is not for news.  The public does not want to think and decide for themselves to form an opinion on unbiased reporting. They will not read. They prefer to have it served to them coated with their right or left wing slant.  The current news is divisive, empty of content, and only serves to dumb down its consumers.

What a tragedy that our country, once the bastion for freedom of the press, has abandoned fair and unbiased reporting in favor of entertainment.  No wonder we are turning into a bunch of heathens.

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