Sitting in a waiting room today meant I spent over an hour subject to the cackle of talking heads on CNN. It’s a shock to the system and I don’t know how people can sit and watch that kind of stuff, either to ostensibly inform themselves or explicitly entertain themselves.
But there’s nothing original or insightful in pointing out how terrible cable news, well, most news is. It’s loud, repetitious, beyond banal. Far more signal than noise. Everyone knows news is terrible at informing people of consequential information.
Now I’m not going to quote anyone on that specific turn of phrase, but there’s an implied “should”. News misses the mark because it’s not doing what it “should” be doing. We see a disconnect between what we think the goal of news is - cable news programming, especially - and what we see it doing.
The error is ours. News doesn’t achieve our expectation of its goal, our expectation is simply wrong. It is and always has been infotainment, a town gossip with professional titles. That’s not to say it’s entirely frivolous, but the standard bearers of the Honest Profession of Journalism are mistaken in what news really is, too.
The bigger observation is that when a system looks broken with regard to what we think it’s supposed to do, we’re probably putting so much weight into our belief of the “supposed to” that we apply that as the model for what the system really does, and blinds us to seeing what purposes it really serves, and perhaps has been serving all along, be that in news, technology, or policy.