Kieren doesn’t like the US TV news. We’ll explain why right after this message!

Poor Kieran Kieren. He’s over there, stuck in front of a screen, and he knows that there’s better to be had. [And I can’t even spell his name right. Duh! Thanks Sally.]

US news: utter utter rubbish:

“People often say that the news in the US is terrible – and it is, it is appalling. But it hit home this lunchtime when I flipped between different news channels while eating lunch. CNN, Fox, MSNBC, and god knows how many other channels. And all of it absolutely dreadful. I know for example from listening to the BBC’s Radio 4 Today programme first thing this morning that one of the world’s most wanted war criminals Radovan Karadzic was arrested late last night. I also know that a possible huge breakthrough has been made with prostate cancer.

What else do I know from this morning? Well, that India’s government may have survived a vote of no confidence; that Mugabe is talking with the Zimbabwe opposition about possible power-sharing. I know there has been some kind of attack in Israel.

Having watched an hour of lunchtime TV news in the US I know that: there are two US presidential candidates and one of them is abroad at the moment; that people have made video parodies of the two candidates and posted them on the Internet; that a TV news host appeared on a TV chatshow last night; and that someone made a stupid comment about autism on some other TV show.”

You know when you think about it, it really is pretty scary. It gets even worse; people paraphrasing conversations that you’ve just been shown, so that your poor brain won’t be troubled by having to actually listen to the original people and try to figure out what they were really saying. Let us paraphrase it for you so that you don’t have to think.

Which leads naturally to…

It is, in short, unwatchable. I can pick up more real information in five minutes online than in an hour watching television. I am seriously thinking of cancelling my cable subscription. What’s the point?

And it seems that a lot of Americans are discovering much the same. The cause lies not in the stars but in us, Brutus. (Is that the quote?) Anyhow, the US TV media’s surely looming death is thus caused by being too shallow; the print media’s impending doom (though not death) by being too dull.

My forecast for US print media: their newsrooms will shrink so they have the same staffing level as UK ones. If I only knew how many UK staffers there were per newsroom, I’d be able to give you numbers. But I can’t.

Still, one looks at the Papercuts blog (which is mapping job losses) and sees that the total is stretching into the thousands. Wow. Now, a word from our sponsors…


  1. “Men at some time are masters of their fates:
    The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
    But in ourselves that we are underlings.”

  2. Have you ever listened to the news on Radio 1?

    The story you get is so short of depth its barely worth reporting at all. Given its target audience, a cynic would argue that its the product of the dumbed down education on offer in this country…

  3. Ooh yeah, Radio 1 news is amazing. Its almost haikus. If I listened to Radio 1 Id be insulted.

  4. I think you’ve just tuned into the wrong shows. Being American and living in the UK for five years my take is that the US media is just like the UK and probably most other countries – if you want something decent you have to know where to look. Granted your post isn’t about radio, but one example is fantastic journalism on NPR and the other talk radio shows accessible in the states over AM frequency. For TV news, CNN is pretty much the same as BBC World News in terms of news value, with a North American slant obviously. If a South American war criminal was arrested, the UK media would be slower to pick it up than the States because of basic geographic proximity. There are also cases of US and UK TV “news” being scarily similar – e.g. The Today Show and This Morning, both having pretty much no news value. Hence I think saying that news in the US is appalling is a bit of a sweeping generalization. Although I completely agree about the size of newsrooms comment and it probably will right itself – someday.

  5. Charles

    Thursday 24 July 2008 at 1:33 pm

    @Emily – it was Kieran, not me, and he was watching the TV news at lunchtime, as he explicitly said. I think that UK media picked up on the release of (forget woman hostage’s name) pretty quickly – did the US TV media?

    I dunno, every piece of non-CNN US TV news reporting I see is dire to the point of not being worth airing, except to stop the ads running continuously into each other. Point us to some great ones on YouTube?

  6. Sorry I started a comment just now and don’t know where it went. Yes I caught it was Kieran but missed the lunchtime mention. Here are some US TV channels other than CNN that have good reporting throughout the day: CNBC (Closing Bell is an entertaining way to keep on top of Wall St and they run it on channel 607 if you have Virgin Media), PBS – excellent in every way but more features-based, CSPAN (good for staying on top of Congress), ESPN for sports (and this, coming from a girl who doesn’t know much about any sports other than golf and tennis) … anyway my point is that yes a lot of the regional news shows are pretty rubbish and there are a lot of commercials, but as long as you avoid Fox (owned not by an American) it is possible to access factual, interesting news on US TV. :-)

  7. Kieren, not Kieran, surely?

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