Veritas

Over the last month, I have been pouring through online news websites and devouring as much of cable news as I could tolerate. This upcoming election is coming quickly, and it has gotten noisy; echo chambers barraging us with lies, half-truths, distractions & outright deceit. As I have posted before, the news has failed us; the politicians have failed us and the electorate is too deaf, blind & stupid to notice. During a late night similar to this, I thought, “Could I design a news network better than this?” — I know, the last thing the world needs is another news channel. But I think I could probably do it; now, whether it would succeed in this climate of corporate self-interest we have, I don’t know… but I can dream.

I had been thinking about it for a while now, but the TV drama “The Newsroom” on HBO really gave me the motivation and the foundation for the ideal news media network. I absolutely loved the premise, like most people, and started watching it immediately. It is wonderfully written, although at times, it seems to derail. Criticism started immediately about its perceived liberal bias, but the main issues stem from its inconsistent and sometimes tangential storylines (that often derail in my opinion from the central theme – the news! The culture behind liberal bias in the media is a whole other story for another time, but let me just say that the revealing the TRUTH does NOT require balance, and oftentimes lies sometimes on the left, sometimes on the right. Facts have no bias.

In any event, while up late I started scribbling. One word lingered as I did this: “Veritas,” the goddess of truth, and the mother of Virtue. This seems a good place to start; getting the name right. I actually wrote down a rudimentary 24-hour schedule, designated a central bureau (in Chicago, because it’s toward the center of the country, because it’s close to a place like Northwestern’s school of journalism, and because it’s not New York) and formed a mission statement: briefly, a relentless pursuit of the truth, focusing on the truly important issues, framed by thorough, unbiased, and uninfluenced analysis. Yes, it’s very idealistic, but when it’s something this important, you have to dream big… or go home.

Here’s my preliminary weekday schedule:

1) The morning news program – similar to what is seen on the major networks; starting at 5AM central time and lasting four hours (to make sure the West Coast can catch the tail end of it). It would be a combination of lighter-fare news segments in entertainment, lifestyle, health etc., round-table moderated debate segments and run-downs of the headline news at the top of every hour.

2) Later in the morning, a 2-hour block of national news (local stories around the country that warrant national attention) that may focus on a specific incident but may reflect a greater issue worth discussing.

3) A morning talk-show, with a panel of hosts that debate the key issues in the news, similar to open water-cooler talk, but heavily moderated to keep the discourse civil.

4) An hour-long block devoted only to international news – I thought it important to have an isolated hour just for world affairs, separating it from the national news (it seems today that major events around the world get only scant coverage buried within filler segments). The time slot would be midday in the US, and evening in Europe. (oh yes, I want to go international)

5) Another 2-hour block of national news as above in the early afternoon.

6) A financial news program starting just after the closing bell at the stock exchange, covering the business news as well as providing education on basic economics for clueless people like myself.

7) A political fact-check news show, which I hope to be my trademark program; examining the state of the union, separating the truth from recycled bullshit (there are independent websites devoted to fact-checking; I think their services should be on TV!). I think this will be a good lead-in to:

8) The evening news, the flagship program – coursing an hour, devoting itself only to “hard news,” similar to what is seen on “The Newsroom.” – I would hope to keep the hour as minimally interrupted by commercials as possible.

9) As we go into primetime, I would follow “the news” with an hour-long investigative news magazine, similar to 60 Minutes, Dateline, 20/20, etc. although airing 5 days week. I would like the show to cover in great detail stories that did not receive enough attention. It would cover a variety of topics: science/technology, the environment, history… but not sentimental human interest pieces (I find them appealing only to emotions and not to advancing knowledge)

10)  A nighttime talk show –  casual and comical interview show, with guests from entertainment, politics, etc. I’m thinking The Daily Show – Lite.

11) Another hour of international news - 12 hours after the first one, which would be evening in Asia, morning in Europe.

12) Overnight news – to cover the 4 hours or so til morning. Nothing special, just a recap of the day’s events.

Of course, I could never pull this off myself… this is just a dream of mine; to separate political, corporate and other nefarious influences that corrupt the news today. Maybe someone somewhere someday takes this idea and runs with it… I only humbly ask for the appropriate credit. That is all.

 

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How the Media Fails US

American people can be so stupid. Despite facts deploring the state of education in this country, we continue to believe we are indeed educated & well-informed, especially when it comes to politics. This is in large part due to the intimate relation we have with the press media, this “24-hour news” era we have today. However, study after study shows how most of us know very little about what is going on in this country. How can that be? Ockham’s Razor would suggest there is something wholly wrong with the media, the very instrument trusted to make sense of the world around us.

So what is wrong? Quite simply, their interest and ours are not in line. We want facts and commentary and “they” want ratings to satisfy their corporate bosses and pad the bottom line. To me, ratings serve the same purpose as homeroom roll call, where you are present in body but not necessarily in mind. Nevertheless, media outlets use these numbers as justification for their work. By doing so, they wag the proverbial dog, enticing us with “breaking news” stories they think will interest us because they appeal to our basal human tendencies.

One need only to watch cable news channels and see the copious amount of attention to stories of banality; for example, sexual misconduct, missing children and celebrity gossip. While they should evoke some measure of human compassion, the blatant truth is they ultimately serve no long-lasting influence in our lives. Go back 3 years and review what passed as news to see they have no relevance today whatsoever. Furthermore, I argue that such issues are not in the purvey of “real news.”

The only politics we understand is scandal, whether it exists in reality or merely implied. Important issues pertaining to the economy and world affairs are given lip service and the obligatory 5 minute piece that frankly are too shallow. Meanwhile, extremely important issues pertaining to the congressional budget are addressed lackadaisically, often abandoned with hands thrown akimbo when faced with partisan impasses. American people know little about how our tax dollars are used. Wide disparities exist with how much is spent on defense, infrastructure, education, environmental protection & foreign aid. These are the things that need to be relayed to us by our harbingers of information – the news media, and sadly, they are failing us and we sit as an apathetic and misinformed electorate who are letting this happen.

More on this later…

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July 20, 1969 – Dreams

I fear for the future of this country. Today, I wished we would have taken the time to acknowledge the anniversary of man first landing on the moon. However, there are more urgent stories in the news that do warrant the appropriate amount of coverage. Yet, I cannot help but feel that remembering the time when man reached for the heavens and landed on a celestial body would register much in today’s society.

Why do I think this? I could go on a long diatribe over the obsession of this country with the most mundane, banal & instantly gratifying of things.  However, I will allow Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, one of our very few public intellectuals in this country, explain that wondrous day and sadly, the failures of our country thereafter to take the torch & work towards advancing our country (our world) into the future.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jbxX1v_9WzQ

I for one refuse to stop dreaming, and implore all of us not to  forgo our future by obsessing about today.

 

 

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