Okay, all you 24/7 news junkies, here's a quiz: What's the difference between news and opinion? I don't mind you checking in all day long to watch the same footage, described in the same words, over and over. I'm just concerned that you keep your minds straight on the question above. I'm sick of "news" that is really fiction. I mean, I'm a novel writer and I wouldn't go as far as a lot of so-called newspeople in spinning a story.

We hear first, sometimes for days, what someone probably will say when he/she speaks to the press. Then we hear the actual speech, which is then sliced into sound bites, which any debater knows can make a quote sound pretty much any way you want it to. The speech is followed by endless recaps of what the person said, and again the reporter makes choices about what to include and what to leave out. That is followed by endless hashing and rehashing of what was said and what it means. The before-speech predictions and the after-speech analysis on some news-talk shows are often purely personal garbage.

It happens to everyone: Obama, Palin, even the Anthony family. (If anything could make me feel sorry for that woman, it would be the media's gleeful broadcast of her conversations with her parents from jail.) Today it's Caroline Kennedy, who made a simple, one-sentence statement that she's withdrawing from competition for Clinton's Senate seat. In less that two minutes I was infuriated by four "reporters" who all provided their guesses as to why she did that. We pay people to guess other people's motives? Adding insult to fabrication, they delivered their opinions in a superior, snide manner, implying that they have the goods on this woman.

I don't care one way or the other about Caroline Kennedy's motivations. But what 24/7 news has done for America is turn it into 24/7 editorializing disguised as news. So I return to the orginal question, because you are ultimately responsible for your own intelligence. As you watch the "news," ask yourself over and over: What is the difference between news and opinion? You'll find there's a lot less news than you think.

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Comment by Peg Herring on January 29, 2009 at 10:06am
John, That's so true. I think Jon actually gets it.
And Christine, I don't know which is worse, the national "news" of who might join the cast of "Dancing with the Stars," or our local news, which seems to concentrate on "almost events," a house that "almost" burned down or a school bus that "almost" crashed.
Comment by John Dishon on January 29, 2009 at 9:05am
Oddly, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, a comedy show, presents better coverage of political events than all the "news" stations combined.
Comment by Christine Duncan on January 29, 2009 at 7:38am
It's not just the editorializing that I object to either. Since when is it news that Britney Spears is having custody problems or that Ted Haggard had another affair? That garbage takes up all the allowed time so there is no time for the real stuff. I'm sick of NOT hearing the news. It appears that all of the national outlets believe that Americans are so ego-centric not to care if there was a riot in Spain or if there is hunger in Ethiopia.
Comment by Peg Herring on January 23, 2009 at 10:09pm
Good points from both. I guess my concern is that we as the news-watching public need to apply our brains to the situation: mix stations so we get varied viewpoints, mix media so we read as well as watch, and -- golly gee, think about who's saying what and why.
Comment by Pate Grantwell on January 23, 2009 at 8:33pm
Peg, I feel your pain. I think the problem stems from the fact that news has to be popular to earn high ratings like any other program. And the only way to achieve popularity is by showing and telling people what they want to see and hear.

As a result, many important developments receive no mention because they do not titillate us.

As long as news is geared towards entertainment, the problem will persist.
Comment by Dana King on January 23, 2009 at 1:44am
I lost my patience with 24-hour "news" during the sniper situation in DC several years ago. One of the shootings created a traffic situation (essentially closed part of the Beltway due to roadblocks) that prevented me from getting to work in any practical manner. I kept the news on to see what was what, and learned everything I was going to learn in the first five minutes, even though I watched for almost three hours. Most news stories consist of long periods of nothing happening, but the reporters have to fill the time, so rumor and speculation have to suffice so that's virtually impossible to know what the verifiable facts are.

I was watching Hardball last night when Caroline kennedy's announcement broke. (The Spousal Equivalent is a junkie; what can I say?) David Shuster and three other heads broke in to tell us what it meant, when, given the depth of her statement, they didn't really "know" any more than I did; they were guessing. They even ginned up the excitement of the coverage by bringing in Chris Matthews on the phone when it was his show we were watching when they broke away? MSNBC couldn't show a live feed from two places at once? Sure they can, but I suspect someone thought it would be more dramatic this way.

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