Journalists have a responsibility to the public to provide relevant content to the public. According to Gallup, 55 percent of Americans get their news from television broadcasts, 21 percent from the Internet and 9 percent from print.
Those statistics can be broken down further, but the point stands that the majority of Americans get their news from a select few outlets.
That is to say that a handful of editors and managers dictate what news the average American consumes. Whether or not people want to acknowledge this is one thing — it is admittedly a hell of a lot easier to just watch the news, ask no questions and call it a night.
The pill that is labeled “nightly news” has become increasingly difficult to swallow in light of two recent stories, the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 and the situation in Ukraine, have highlighted the absolutely absurd condition of the media.
Before addressing those two events further let’s take a look at the Society of Professional Journalists’s preamble:
“Members of the Society of Professional Journalists believe that public enlightenment is the forerunner of justice and the foundation of democracy.”
The key words there are public enlightenment. If the duty of journalists is to enlighten the public, then why does the majority of my Facebook and Twitter know more about Courtney Love’s stellar detection work than what is actually happening between Ukraine and Russia, let alone what the word “annexation” means?
It is safe to assume that absolutely no one has been enlightened about what happened to Flight 370, despite the efforts of the entire mainstream media’s work force. For the past two weeks, the same speculation and questions have been recycled on a daily concerning the missing airplane and its passengers.
Not to say that this isn’t a tragedy; 229 people are missing, which is by all means a high body count. Regardless of the tragedy and the lost lives, this is hardly a news story any more. It is proof that click bait can be more than “25 things you never thought you would ever want to know about JFK’s childhood pets”
This issue, while clearly a tragedy, should not have received the amount of coverage that it did. It’s really ridiculous that every conspiracy from aliens to Edward Snowden get media coverage these days while there are real problems going on that need more attention.
So until there is an answer, we should just let the story of Flight 370 fly low. But for some reason, the media wouldn’t let that happen. All the while, a real newsworthy story has been developing in eastern Europe for weeks— one that has not received nearly enough coverage in light of Flight 370.
The situation in Ukraine has grown from riots and destruction into an international fiasco that has culminated in Russia being kicked out of the G8 for violating international law.
Meanwhile, when I went home this past weekend, I turned on 12 News and there was wall-to-wall coverage of Flight 370. This is what is wrong with the 24 hour news cycle in the U.S. today. Many people care only about this lost flight.
However, there is a sizable group of people who are legitimately worried about the situation in Ukraine potentially initiating global conflict. As if that weren’t enough to merit extensive news coverage, it has caused a considerable ruckus in Washington, D.C., and countless politicians, many who could potentially run for office, have thrown in their two cents.
This kind of story is only what Americans should be caring about, not fluff stories. Isolationism as a foreign policy died along time ago, so why are most Americans still so ignorant when it comes to the matter of foreign politics?
The short answer is that they simply don’t see enough of it, as it goes, “Out of sight, out of mind.” The media has hyped wall-to-wall coverage of Flight 370 — which is for all intents and purposes, a useless story — despite the fact that there is an on-going international crisis happening with very lasting consequences.
For some reason, the media elite would rather the American population be more well-versed on a missing airplane than on Putin’s complete disregard for international law and a potential war. If this instance were to be an anomaly and the American public were well informed of global issues, that would be one thing. But there is such an inundation of useless news stories, sports analysis, reality TV shows and to top it off, even more coverage of asinine stories.
If America wants to remain a superpower and an international leader, the public has to be more informed on topics that extend beyond missing airplanes and to more in-depth and evocative stories that are evidence-based and well reported.
Reach the columnist at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @JordanBohannon