Instant Ancient History

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Posted At: April 11, 2012 2:30 PM
by Anna Ellis

CNN, Fox News, HLN, MSNBC — we all have our favorite news networks. From political races to murder cases, we rely on these networks to tell us the most important, relevant events that are happening worldwide.

Even different regions of the country have their favorite news networks. For example, Southern, right-winged members of the “Bible belt” tend to favor Fox News, which is considered to be the most conservative source of news.

But who actually decides what’s newsworthy? What protocol is taken when presenting the world’s biggest stories? And do networks purposefully try to stir up controversy just to create news?

Rather than consistently reporting stories with elements of newsworthiness, such as relevance, timeliness and prominence, the 24-hour news cycle is infamous for reporting on trendy topics and sensationalism. This biased agenda setting creates unnecessary drama that the 24-hour news cycle seems to thrive off of, also known as “fluff stories.”

The most recent story that has spiraled out of control is the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer. The story, which started out simply as a case of whether or not Zimmerman was guilty and if he had motive to shoot Trayvon, has now caused public outrage over allegations of racial motivations and police misconduct.

NBC’s Today show even went so far as to air an edited version of Zimmerman’s phone call to the police. The edited version implied severe racism on Zimmerman’s part. NBC later issued an apology for the false allegations.

While we all anxiously await a possible decision this week on whether there will be charges against Zimmerman, we rely fully on the 24-hour news cycle to give us all of the information we need. However, we will more than likely receive solely the information a news network deems worthy.

The Trayvon Martin case is not the only story that has unnecessarily spun out of control. We all remember the Casey Anthony trial from the past summer. As soon as the verdict was read, it was on to the next headline. This is the situation with countless other stories as well.

This is why the 24-hour news cycle has gotten so out of control: it creates fluff. The battle for best news coverage creates fierce competition among the different networks. Coming from different angles and hoping to grab the appeal of the audience, these news outlets will go to great lengths just to beat out competitors and have a large impact on who is watching.

So the next time you are watching the news, ask yourself if what is being reported is really something you are interested in, and how much of it is just fluff.

One Comment

  1. Katie Sanders

    I am a sophomore public relations student at the University of Alabama. One of our core courses teaches the roles of media in mass communications. From this course, I have always kept in mind the three roles of the media: the watchdog, the scorekeeper and the gatekeeper. This blog article expands upon the role of the media as a gatekeeper. It raises the important point that public relations specialists must target key messages in order to gain the interest of the media. On the opposite side, the public should be wary of knowledge gained from only one news source. Variety in media outlets by both the public relations practitioner and the public audience is a good practice to hold. Media holds great power because they chose what news to cover and to what extent. The public relations takeaway message can be to target new releases specifically to the news organization or journalist in order to gain better coverage from the “gatekeeper”.


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