NNTN Then, “News” Now
I’m sure most people in their 40s or older today remember NNTN [Not Necessarily The News], their memories probably stemming more from off-shoot segments on shows such as NBC’s Laugh-In and Saturday Night Live than from the original [which was a satirical sketch comedy that first aired on HBO as a comedy special in 1982, and then ran as a series from 1983 to 1990; the 2004 movie Anchorman was similar in concept, but focused its satire more on the deliverer of the news than its content].
For this blog post, I’m going to start out positing that much of what is called “news” in the media today is remarkably similar to NNTN episodes of the 1980s, the main differences being a) that the talking heads and pundits do a better job of putting on serious faces throughout their shows than did their NNTN counterparts and b) audience laughter is not audible because it occurs in the homes of the viewers rather than in the studio airing the broadcast. As for “journalists” writing for “news”papers and magazines or posting their articles on social media, the serious face part is not as applicable, but content similarities are just as remarkable.
Let’s start with all the mention lately of “fake news” [re: my blog post An Alarming Development]. This term began to catch on recently as there has been more and more media coverage about whether “fake news” cost Hillary Clinton the presidency. In the above-mentioned post, I got into the potential dangers I can see in continued proliferation of the use of that term — for the simple reason that each news broadcaster/publisher will have a different interpretation of what is “fake” and what is “real”. In this context, we must keep some key facts in mind:
- 90 percent of U.S. media is controlled by six corporations [see this link for source]. We can logically assume that they are driven by at least two factors that bring into question their objectivity: 1) their responsibility to their shareholders to maximize profits; and 2) the worldview of their top leadership [i.e., the context within which these leaders make decisions about what does and does not make it into their publications and broadcasts].
- Information on the amount of material available on the internet is hard to pin down with assurance of accuracy, but these statistics are as accurate as any and serve to make a point: there are well over a billion websites in existence; hundreds of new sites start up every minute; 288 million monthly active Twitter users tweet a combined average of 347,222 times per minute; 1.44 billion monthly active FaceBook users send an average of 31.25 million messages and posts and view 2.77 million videos every minute.
- Although the exact amount can be argued, scientists in medicine and psychology would agree that there is some finite limit to how much of the information to which the average person is exposed in a given day he/she will retain even at the end of that day, not to mention future days, weeks, months and years.
It is quite possible that the only place a person can go to find truly unbiased news is the uncensored internet; the key phrase being “to find“. Unfortunately, applying some simple math to the above-mentioned facts clearly reveals that even if the average person spends an hour a day looking for news [which is far more than many sources indicate is the case], he/she decides [consciously or subconsciously] from among at least seven or eight TV channels and literally millions of internet-based sources where to spend that time [and in the latter case, the amount of available content being created per hour is far more than he/she could access by spending only one second on each page clicked on].
So Back To NNTN …
So from this perspective, consider a typical nightly news show on a broadcast or cable TV channel. Whatever the talking head is reading from his/her teleprompter is the product of the company’s decision-making process for selecting what will and will not be included [after applying their own filter from the sea of possibilities — i.e., a decision has already been made as to what from that “sea” is real, what is fake, what will produce viewers and clicks, etc.]. The talking head has his/her own worldview and perspective, and through voice intonation, facial expressions and body language, affects how the actual content is perceived by many. The same filtering process applies to print and posted media, the only difference in presentation being choice of words and phrases — and accompanying pictures and images — instead of voice intonation, facial expression and body language.
Comparing this scenario to an NNTN-type episode results in an obvious similarity [same description as above, the only differences being in bold italics]. … Whatever the talking head is reading from his/her teleprompter is the product of the company’s decision-making process for selecting what will and will not be included [after applying their own filter from the sea of possibilities — i.e., a decision has already been made as to what from that “sea” is funny and entertaining, what will produce viewers and clicks, etc.]. The talking head has his/her own worldview and perspective, and through voice intonation, facial expressions and body language, and perhaps some off-script content injections affects how the actual content is perceived by many. The same filtering process applies to print and posted media, the only difference in presentation being choice of words and phrases — and accompanying pictures and images — instead of voice intonation, facial expression and body language.
Part Of Paradigm Shift
This fundamental change in “the media” — what it is structurally, how it is perceived, and how it can be used to influence public opinion — is simply one more piece of evidence confirming that a major paradigm shift is underway not only in America, but in the world [see A Major Paradigm Shift Well Underway; Election Aftermath – 1]. Evidence of this shift over the past two decades has been clearer and more visible in industry [manufacturing, mining, retailing, banking, etc. — and the entertainment component of the media]. Over the past two years, largely as a result of one of the most if not the most unusual presidential election campaigns in our history, evidence of it in politics and the news component of the media have moved to front and center.
So Where Can One Turn To Get Real News?
As I mentioned in my What I learned as a Boy Scout post, I believe all American citizens have an obligation to keep themselves informed about the issues of the day so they can vote intelligently in all elections at all levels of government. Only two things give a person the ability to develop truly well-informed positions on the issues: 1) personal choices of “channels” to access [“channels” here being much broader than the TV/YouTube connotation]; and 2) personal filters, based on his/her value system and Worldview, applied to the content flowing through those “channels”. Anyone who limits the first to just one or two channels and/or who essentially delegates the second to just one or two “trusted consolidators” runs a substantial risk of simply disappearing into the huge crowd of what one popular radio personality calls “low information voters”. Anyone who takes whatever time is required [whether he/she thinks he/she has that much time available or not] to control both of these things himself/herself will always be a part of making things better than they are. It’s a hard choice, but the greater the “flow” of people from the latter category to the former, the more rapid our drift toward authoritarianism will be.
Charles M. Jones