Image from Google.
The daily news is a ritual, late at night parents catch up on the daily news to learn about current events. News is the building ground of a democratic society, if democracy is to prevail people must be informed about the world around them. As the 2024 presidential election comes closer, the more and more the news is going to be watched more intensely. But the news isn’t going to do anything to inform anyone, all it’s going to do is reinforce people’s beliefs. This is what the system has become, viewer gratification, and it’s only drifting farther away from true journalism. This boils down to sensationalism, pointless debates, corporations, and opinion.
Firstly, what is true journalism? Journalism is defined as the production and distribution of reports on the interaction of events, facts, and ideas, that make up the “news of the day”. However, true journalism goes further than that, journalists work to gather facts and evidence and then put the story according to the evidence they gathered. This information is meant to be thought-provoking and ensure that members of the public feel their beliefs be questioned. This also ensures that no one feels 100% correct and gives them room to change their mind as new information comes to light. People are allowed and pushed to change their minds with true journalism. This is where viewer gratification comes into play, to put, no one likes their thoughts and values to be questioned. It’s human nature to always want to be right and that your “tribe” is on the right side of history. What happens is that people avoid news that questions their beliefs and news has risen to exploit this.
It has become common knowledge that CNN and MSNBC are for Democrats and liberals, while FOX News is for conservatives. Statistically, this assumption holds true since the majority of Republicans watch FOX News and a majority of Democrats do not. This goes back to the idea of viewer gratification, FOX News has found a base in the Republican party. A large number of their viewers tune in every night to watch “Tonight with Tucker Carlson”. The viewers keep watching because Tucker Carlson doesn’t confuse them, instead, Carlson affirms their beliefs. He assures them that they are voting for the right people, they have the right ideologies, and the woke mob is coming to get their way of life. The same applies to Anderson Cooper with CNN and Ari Melber with MSNBC. When viewers feel that they are not being called into question, they feel safe and stay for longer.
News networks do this because, at the end of the day, they are corporations and exist to make a profit. Corporations exist to make a profit for their investors and the news networks are selling a service of informing viewers about the daily news. But viewers only need to watch less than an hour to be informed about current events and to increase their profits the news has learned to sensationalize. Constantly blaring the breaking news sign for any minuscule thing, making politics look like a drama show, and having loud sport-like debates. All these factors keep viewers hooked, like a consumer on drugs. Even the debate panels have been modified from sports so that it is more inciting to watch. In reality, no one is learning anything, being questioned, or being held accountable, and everyone is screaming.
This problem is going to perhaps transcend generations and may not be even close to fixed by the end of our lifetimes. But there are some things people can do to stop the news from profiting off creating chaos. Firstly, support local and independent journalism that doesn’t have a huge following. So therefore it doesn’t have as big of an incentive to make money because they don’t have huge investors. Secondly, look at multiple news sources rather than conforming to just one, even if it makes people uncomfortable because that is what good journalism does. Thirdly, stop glorifying the person who watches the daily news because it really isn’t healthy after a certain point. At the end of the day, the news sucks and the best idea is to just stop watching and start reading.
Shazia Shameerullah is a junior at Washington High School. She has lived in Fremont since elementary school. This is her first year at the Hatchet. Her favorite subjects at school include social studies and English. She enjoys being with friends, traveling, cooking, reading, and watching sitcoms. She is interested in reporting on politics, historical events, and local news. Later in life, Shazia hopes to pursue a career in law and to travel to new places.