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Don't Abuse the News: Acceptable vs Unacceptable Media Practice
I used to worry about which local news station to follow. In school I was told the most professional news team was the most trustworthy and that I should be wary of those news anchors who start to act like celebrities. One after another, though, these news teams began cutting promos that made nearly every anchor on local channels look like a celebrity in their own right. However, this is not the issue I had to worry about. Local channels promoting their news teams is not the real evil - if it's even to be considered an evil at all. Cable news is what we really should be concerned with. That's where the real egos lie.
I never watched cable news before, and I don't plan on starting. From what I've heard, they tend to be overly concerned with politics. Because it's cable news, that's probably why they're allowed to do that in the first place. However, just because a station or a show is political does not mean that they have to be limited by their political views. Unfortunately, that's what tends to happen. This behavior ranges from snarky comments to outright bullying and often a sense that what they believe is right and everyone else is wrong. If I wanted an op-ed piece, I'd be more apt to read a newspaper or a blog rather than turn on the TV. In fact, I've read op-ed pieces that were probably more fair and balanced than the so-called "fair and balanced" network.
There have also been concerns about what is called "fake news" or the satirical news shows, specifically The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report. These two take clips from news broadcasts and use them for their own comedic purposes. They should not be treated any differently than stand-up comedians who do the same thing except without said clips. News stories might as well be anecdotes that are made into jokes. To use an analogy, the real news shows are the original story and the satire shows are the abridged series. That being said, the original show should never try to be the abridged series. The job of the real news is unbiased reporting, while the job of the abridged series or satire show is to make light of it. Stewart often does this by reporting on people and situations that are exasperating to him and to people who share his views (left/Democratic) while Colbert takes some of the same issues and stretches them into something ridiculous while maintaining more of a right-wing Republican focus (at least this is how I perceive them, but perhaps I may be wrong and not too proud to admit it). While these men have their own beliefs that they take seriously and often get involved in political discussions outside their television shows, they also have the right to poke fun at news stories and the media when they're on the clock. If people accuse them of being unfair or unbalanced, just watch both back-to-back and it's problem solved! That's why they're set up like that, other than the fact that Colbert used to be a "correspondent" on The Daily Show.
That being said, local news shows have their wacky weathermen, and that is perfectly acceptable. Local news anchors rarely - if ever - express their own personal opinions because, while they are entitled to have them, the story does not revolve around what they think about it. They may have the off-handed comment or two before throwing to a commercial or another segment, but these are typically reserved for fluff pieces that are not shaded by politics one way or the other. Cable news anchors (I should really say hosts), on the other hand, are more likely to take sides and comment on everything like it's a talk show and they have free reign to say whatever they want, which they probably do. However, some of these hosts have crossed the line of fairness and good taste on more than one occasion. That's not to say that local news anchors do not get into trouble, but they usually do that on their own time rather than when they're on the air reporting.
I am one of those people that does not like to agree with Sarah Palin, but she has coined the term "lamestream media," and she is not wrong in it. She is not always right about it, but she is not wrong either. The media today has gotten out of control, with some even resorting to hacking, which is considered a cybercrime. Individuals in the media (or even whole companies as the case may be) ought to be dealt with to the fullest extent of the law for stepping out-of-line when the goal or outcome of their actions is not to help but to hurt others. The goal of news media should be primarily to inform, and all other aspirations should be secondary (except in the case of satire when humor is often the primary function). If you're looking for fair and balanced, look no further than your unbiased local news. If you're of one political persuasion over the other, you will no doubt look for media that expresses the same views as you. Just be careful not to fall into the trap that your opinion is the only opinion or the only one that matters, because that is no longer "fair and balanced."