Twenty-four hour news networks are beneficial to the public during times of tragedy or during groundbreaking events such as September 11, the Boston Bombing, and presidential election night coverage. When these events are not occurring these news networks are, at their best, essentially useless, or, at their worst, harmful to our society.
CNN’s coverage of the Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 crash showed precisely why these networks usually do not benefit the public, as anchor Don Lemon openly speculated that the flight’s crash might have been the result of the “supernatural,” and then a few days later suggested that a “black hole” might been the culprit.
CNN was widely panned for its coverage of the plane crash. In the end, Lemon’s “analysis” was ultimately harmless, but this chapter in CNN’s history shows why these 24-hour news networks are inherently detrimental to the American public.
These news networks need to be profitable in order to sustain themselves and therefore need high ratings. In order for these news networks to attract viewers and to dissuade those same viewers, these news networks–namely Fox News and MSNBC–have shifted their coverage to one side of the aisle.
Forbes: Sean Hannity crushed the cable news competition in Feb, finishing 1st with 3.3 million viewers, his 5th straight month as the unrivaled King of Cable News, with a wide lead over Rachel Maddow, who finished the month in 3rd place overall https://t.co/pkgvQay44Q
— MARK SIMONE (@MarkSimoneNY) March 5, 2018
This strategy has resulted in a ratings boom particularly for Fox News, but has lead to mass misinformation amongst viewers. According to a Fairleigh Dickinson University survey, those who claimed Fox News or MSNBC was their main source of news consumption were less informed on the current happenings of the world than people who did not even watch the news.
While misinformation is a critical issue, the most harmful aspects of these news networks are that they undermine our democracy. For a democracy to work successfully, the losers of elections need to accept the outcome of elections. Yet, since from the start of the Obama administration to the present Trump administration, both liberal leaning and conservative leaning networks have been calling for their opponents to be removed from office.
Nothing positive from comes from these types of news networks. Instead of covering topics that the public needs to be informed about such as the Affordable Care Act, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, or literally anything of consequence to the common person, these news networks continue to trot out political pundits who recite the same talking points about the same superficial issues.
The role of the media is to inform the public of important information; yet, instead, it has morphed into a money making enterprise that does nothing but regurgitate useless information to viewers desperate to get the pertinent information that they need to make informed decisions on whom to vote for at the local, state and federal level.
These 24-hour news networks are responsible for the thoroughly polarized nature of the United States, where it seems no one can agree on anything of importance. This is due to a constant stream of misinformation, as viewers have been fed falsehood after falsehood so these networks can maximize profits.
If you ever wonder how we got to the point where citizens in the United States have to debate whether it is right to even talk about the issue of gun control after 17 people are ruthlessly gunned down in a high school or when there were 346 mass shootings in 2017 even though our closest ally Great Britain has only had one mass shooting since 1996 mostly due to their gun control laws, you can blame the 24-hour news networks.
For the past decade, instead of having debates on gun control, conservative pundits have decided to proclaim that regulating the billion dollar firearms industry will result in all guns being confiscated.
This has resulted in a world where one side refuses to engage on a critical issue because these news networks have spread false talking points, as they believed they will be stripped of one of the rights that they hold dear.
As a nation, we are supposed to be able to trust our media; but 24-hour news networks have eroded that trust. The United States has never been as polarized as it is now; and it is only thanks to the misinformation and the useless segments pawned off to the public as “news.”