Is the Clock Ticking on 24-Hour News? (formerly appeared on the blog One Good Paragraph)

Some time around the 159th realization that no matter how pretty the anchor is, I didn’t need to  know that a connector road east of Boise is flooded (complete with copter shot and follow-up coverage),  it hit me. About an hour of news a day is more than enough.

Sure, there are times when you want trusted newspeople on the air non-stop. September 11, of course,  was one of those times. People hungered for information as a kind of palliative, a comfort food, a way to  calm down in the face of a violent unknown that could have spun off sequels. But such situations are  rare, those terrible times when the human thirst or information, for some sort of guidance, must be  satisfied.

Hunger of a different kind stokes competitive 24-hour news networks. In broadcasting, content is a huge  and ravenous beast, never sated, always reducing meat to mash and consuming anything in its path to  fill, fill, fill the minutes in the wheel, and then spin it around again and again. Why is a murder of a young pregnant woman (who was otherwise as anonymous as any of us) any more than a local, or at best regional, story? Not because of the public’s need to know. More because the public can’t look away, either from the wrecks at the NASCAR race or the wrecks of lives. Yes, it was a terrible crime. But my life doesn’t get any better because I know about it. I can’t prevent murder any better for knowing. I do feel sadder. Twenty-four hour news achieves something.

What did we do before so-called news was always on the buffet? Before pundits discovered ever-newer ways to say they have nothing to say? We went out and lived, that’s what we did. With less worry. With more concern for people in our lives who matter, instead of the ones we’ve never met who don’t give a damn about us, until we become the White House gate crashers or the balloon hoaxers.

Does it sound odd for someone who makes his living in media to be going off like this? On the contrary…. — Adam Barr


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