Stephen Colbert coined the phrase Truthiness, defined as “a truth that a person claims to know intuitively from the gut or because it feels right without regard to evidence, logic, intellectual examination, or facts.” Based on that definition “reality” television shows even stretch that broad definition to something closer to realitiness, “the relative reality based on colorful characters and stupid premises without regard for the relative reality of either.” Or something like that.
Americans are an easily bored lot. We demand everything be ripe with entertainment possibilities. We’re a nation addicted to 24X7, 500-channel television – which we nevertheless claim has nothing worth watching – on which we gorge ourselves on a never-ending supply of reality shows promoting the most fame-crazed and mentally defective of us to open their lives in the most voyeuristic fashion. Real life made unreal by the millions of gawking rubberneckers tuning in.
And, the most unrealistic reality shows are the news shows.
Television news was once a place where networks expected to lose money on the public service of covering the news. Now ratings make newsrooms just like any other Disneyesque entertainment outlet. The Edward R. Murrow/Walter Cronkite newsroom was a place where serious people investigated serious topics, regardless of their inherent profitability. Today, there’s little distinction between the Daily Show bullpen and the CNN newsroom.
Once profit became the news’ primary MO focus-grouped, ratings-pregnant drivel stepped in as a sort of news lite where interviews are ‘booked’ and ‘talent’ eggs on the most disgraceful, but oh so entertaining, shout-fests. As much as everyone likes to complain about the ‘mainstream media’ – which is curiously deemed both too liberal and too conservative at the same time – we’ve got no one to blame except our infamously Nielsen-rated selves.
Because of our national, self-absorbed entertainment obsession, we’re killing the geese that laid our golden First Amendment eggs. We’ve abandoned print media altogether. Once-vibrant publications like Newsweek are going the way of the dodo because of the printed page’s inability to adapt to our real-time, excitingly manufactured, multimedia entertainment extravaganza demands.
But even e-media is slipping away. We’ve begun sucking the marrow from infotainment’s bones and it’s not long on this Earth because of it. Real TV news has been supplanted by screaming mimis like Glenn Beck. Even the ‘serious’ Sunday news programs are pale imitations of professional wrestling – all faux drama and glittery costumes bumptiously pontificating on the national debt or latest job numbers. We’ve molded the news to our ravenous need for entertainment and are in a rapidly quickening race to put it out of business too. It seems that as we’ve consumed reality shows like Big Brother we’ve unwittingly given ourselves over to Orwell’s Big Brother…
…and become a nation of scandal junkie couch potatoes minus the skills to tell the difference between Bill O’Reilly and Jon Stewart.
- CBS May Use CNN For Newsgathering [Under Pressure] (gawker.com)
- Romanticizing Journalism (outsidethebeltway.com)
- 26 reviews of “Reality TV” (rateitall.com)
- Bethenny Frankel Slams Scripted Reality Shows (eonline.com)
- ABC Likes You Better When You’re Stupid (pinkbananaworld.com)
- A Slate profile of Andrew Breitbart. (slate.com)
- Daily Show: Well, We Can Always Make Fun Of Fox News [Comedy] (gawker.com)
- Expect more of less on ABC news channel (theage.com.au)
- Too Good to Check (online.wsj.com)
- Why is Jon Stewart “America’s Most Trusted Newscaster?” (newsflavor.com)