Monday, February 20, 2012

Neil Postman and The Today Show

Being an early riser and creature of (slightly elderly) habit, I watch The Today Show every morning--mostly for the news, mostly because the anchors are friendly, and mostly because there aren’t many other options to choose from at 7 a.m.

Neil Postman presents an interesting claim about televised news broadcasts in The Age of Show Business. “A news show, to put it plainly, is a format for entertainment, not for education, reflection or catharsis. And we must not judge it too harshly those who have framed it in this way. They are not assembling the news to be read, or broadcasting it to be heard. They are televising the news to be seen” (p. 87-88)

In this reading, Postman characterizes television, and news broadcasts, as being inherently entertainment-based. Aside from any personal views people may have about broadcasts and alleged biased content, I got to thinking about my beloved Today Show and how, in reality, probably only half of each broadcast is really dedicated to the hard news Postman prefers.

There’s the occasional, “Where in the World is Matt Lauer?” segment.

The awkward Smucker’s Birthday announcements with Willard Scott.

And, my personal favorite, the “Bow to Wow” series of made-over shelter dogs.

In terms of visuality, Postman seemingly argues that televised news is silly and lacking in credibility because it’s all for show—the “friendly anchor” we share our breakfast with, the news stories that are edited to taste. Honestly, though, how many of us would really want to watch the monotony of everyday life? As discussed in class/past readings—TV is/was an opportunity for democracy, opening us all to new places, new people and new stories with more efficiency than print or radio ever could. We have to “see it to believe it.”

“Entertainment is the supra-ideology of all discourse on television” (p. 87). So what if news anchors have a little fun with it? 

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