Friday, August 18, 2006

Not doing their job
The founding fathers felt that a free press was vital a functioning democracy, because only a free press could provide voters with the information they need to make informed choices. Over the decades, the press has done a mixed job of living up to that responsibility and the votes have only marginally taken advantage of the information when it has been available. One of the complaints about the centralization of the news media into a limited number of hands is that diverse corporations are more likely to concentrate on the profitability of the news and ignore its information providing role. Most television news has been transformed into something called infotainment and no longer fufills its information function at all. To anyone who doubts that, I offer this:
Yesterday, a federal judge in Michigan issued "a sweeping rebuke of the once-secret domestic-surveillance effort the White House authorized following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001." The ruling was "a significant blow to Bush’s attempts to expand presidential powers," but you wouldn’t know that by watching last evening’s network newscasts.

All three major TV networks led their evening news with stories on JonBenet Ramsey’s death and the comments made by arrested teacher John Mark Karr. The networks offered multiple segments and numerous expert analyses to provide in-depth coverage on the legal case. The NSA decision received only a passing mention from two of the newscasts, while ABC devoted a full segment to it.

Still, ABC devoted twice as much time to Ramsey as it did to the NSA story. More egregiously, CBS offered seven times as much airtime to Ramsey as it did to the NSA story, while NBC devoted 15 times more airtime. Below is a comparison of the allocation of time made by each network:


As CBS host Bob Schieffer wrapped up the Ramsey segment, he reassured the audience, "We'll stay on this case. That’s for sure."

PS Does everyone else's browsers show a big empty space above the table in this post? Can anyone tell me how to fix my HTML so it won't do that?

PPS Problem solved.

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