Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Sad, Sad State of News Consumption in America

Time was when TV watching didn't involve political statements.
"America’s dominant news source is television, and the disparity between heavy viewers of TV news and everyone else is as startling as the gap between the plutocrats and the people."

That is from a Salon Magazine piece today (here) about just how ill informed Americans are. 

Most of us understand that while TV news is awful in general, cable news is the nadir. TV news is so bad, in fact, that it makes the declining state of newspapers look positively sunny by comparison. With that in mind, consider this: "A heavy local news viewer watches about 22 minutes of it a day at home, and a heavy network news viewer watches about 32 minutes a day.  But a heavy cable news consumer averages 72 minutes of it a day."

As to those who only watch one philosophically-friendly channel: "about one-quarter of American adults watch only Fox News, another quarter watch only CNN and 15 percent watch only MSNBC.  But 28 percent of Fox News viewers also watch MSNBC, and 34 percent of MSNBC viewers watch Fox. More than half of MSNBC viewers, and nearly half of Fox viewers, watch CNN, and of CNN’s viewers, about 4 out of 10 also watch Fox, and 4 out of 10 also watch MSNBC."

Marty Kaplan's story, noting the Pew Research, adds, "The top third of the country does 88 percent of the day’s TV news viewing; the middle third watches only 10 percent of the total time; the bottom third sees just 2 percent of the minutes of news consumed. Two-thirds of Americans live in an information underclass as journalistically impoverished as the minuscule bazillionaire class is triumphant."

 Writer Marty Kaplan concludes, "The danger democracy faces isn’t so much that different segments of our country inhabit alternative realities constructed from different data delivered by different news sources. It’s that a minority of the country watches a fair amount of news, and a majority may as well be living on the moon."

My only dispute with Kaplan is that the Americans who watch a lot of cable news are better off for it. A couple of years ago, a study concluded that those who watch Fox News knew less about what was going on in the country/world than those who consumed no news at all.


  1. Is there a trend here: members of the lower socio-economic classes do not avail themselves of free access to news about events affecting their daily lives. They don't participate in electing our leaders. They tend to be less well educated and hold lower paying jobs.

    All of these choices are guaranteed to us as Americans. The following is not a proposal, but a question. At what point should the rest of of citizenry, which does follow current events, votes, values education, etc.,at which point can they say "enough - we are tired of supporting fellow citizens who do not try harder to better themselves"

    It's a rhetorical question. We must provide safety nets for fellow citizens who encounter bad situations through no fault of their own. And the consequences of bad health, loss of a job, a home burning down, etc. plan last for a long time requiring extended support.

    It's the citizens who apparently do not try, do not take an interest in being a part of society's decision making process that I am questioning.

  2. Now THAT'S depressing. And sad. And very, very scary.