MediaVillage is pleased to introduce our new critical commentary on media news coverage by Erich Prince. Published weekly, “News on the Record” will share behind-the-scenes insights and knowledge on the issues and realities confronting all of us who take the ethics, honesty and influence of media news seriously.
Note: To avoid the very thing some media outlets are being accused of – prematurely jumping to conclusions -- I will make some comments here, knowing that much is subject to change in the months to come, should the situation evolve, new findings emerge if the Mueller report is released to Congress or should other ongoing investigations cast a different light on the situation.
Occasionally, an editor acknowledges what we all know to be true: that it's not the viewer's imagination -- the press really does prefer bad news to good news. As stories of crimes, political scandals and conflict fill the airwaves, one might wonder if the news media is making things seem nastier than they are. It's a point cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker has argued when he suggested that the coverage choices of the news media may distort our views. For example, we overestimate the number of tornado deaths since producers are suckers for catastrophic deaths, rather than much more common killers, such as asthma. Channeling sociologist Johan Galtung, Pinker contends that if newspapers came out every fifty years instead of daily, they'd tell the story of remarkable macro-strides, such as rising life expectancy and a dearth of world wars. But, instead, the news makes the world seem rather frightening.
President Trump isn't the only one. Twitter has become the platform of choice for much of the political and so-called commentary class. Scrolling through Twitter and adding one's two cents, for journalists, politicos and authors, has become what it was for eighth graders a few short years ago to spend their entire evenings browsing through Facebook. Stephen King, for example, spends so much time tweeting that one wonders how he has time to write a single sentence for any forthcoming books. He's just one in a sea of professors, authors and politicians who have taken their talents to the Twitter feed -- where they appear to have a captive audience.