In 1980, Ted Turner and Reese Schonfeld co-founded the Cable News Network (CNN). Despite derision over the idea of a 24 hour rolling news channel, CNN became a massive hit and would become the forefather to the news system today. In the 43 years since CNN first aired, news channels have changed from having bulletins every few hours to being on air 24/7. Our parents would have to wait for the top of the hour for news, unless breaking news broke into programming, whilst we can just turn it on with a press of a button.
Whilst many may marvel at the idea of 24 hour news, it is part of why news today has its problems. As a result of constant media absorption, competition from social media and the internet, as well as a fast-paced world, society itself has become obsessed with the news. Every tiny little story becomes splashed across screens, both large and small, in a desperate attempt to capture the moment before it vanishes.
Everything is Breaking News
If, like me, you have the BBC news app alert on your phone, then this will be a similar tale. The alert goes off. You check it. Whilst it’s officially classed as ‘Breaking News,’ it’s not really that important. Some things are of course important. Look at the death of Her Majesty The Queen last year. That was a news story that knocked everything else off the air. Considering that she had been our monarch since 1952, it’s fair to say that this was incredibly important breaking news.
Generally, the app applies the term ‘Breaking News’ rather liberally. Holly Willoughby leaving This Morning after fourteen years is not worth your phone going off. Beyoncé removing ‘offensive lyrics’ from an old song isn’t worth it either.
That also applies to news channels. Sky News and BBC will have that ticket going across the bottom of the screen quite happily for just about any reason. Rare is the day where the bottom of Sky News is not a flash of yellow and black. Even a slow news day will have breaking news just to keep things a bit fresh.
It’s understandable really. In this day and age, news travels fast. It comes and goes in the blink of the eyes. News companies want to have their hold on the story before the next one comes. When Twitter/X or Facebook gets the news first, well, that’s one less story that they’ve managed to break to viewers. The big media organisations may have the means to research the stories and get the scoops, but they don’t ever get it out first. One is more likely to find out a story through social media than they are the 24 hour news or their app.
Considering the point of the 24 hour news cycle is to be fresh, that’s not really a good thing.
Every Little Story, Made Bigger
On the 18th April 1930, BBC news would announce that “there is no news.”
Can you imagine that today? Another issue with the 24 hour cycle and news today is the fact that there’s a desperation to find something to report on. When channels and apps are never off, they can’t have a rest. Something must be going on. It doesn’t matter what it is, but it must be something.
Perhaps it’s a take on a news story through the issue of race, gender or sexuality. Perhaps it’s a random study from Australia. Whatever it is, it’s got a place in the news because it’s something.
Take for example the Daily Climate Show on Sky News. What was originally a daily, thirty minute slot on prime time was axed to a weekend event. It’s not hard to see why this was. In its desperation to make more news out of something, Sky took a risk by devoting half an hour everyday to the exact same topic. Considering how climate change and its presentation is a divisive subject, it was hardly a risk worth taking. Changing it to every weekend was still a poorly thought out move.
You might turn the news on when you get up at seven in the morning. You might turn the news on at ten before you go to bed. What might link those two viewings is that they are exactly the same.
When the media can’t slot a new story in, they’ll just repeat it. If it’s an unfolding story, then of course you’ll see it or read about it again later because there are news things to be said. The problem occurs when it’s the same story over and over again.
Nobody wants to hear the same story they did fifteen hours ago without new information. It’s tiresome.
The Fear Factor
Then there’s the fear in which the media thrives.
From the moment that Boris Johnson told us that we now had to stay in our homes because of COVID, the media was all over the pandemic- perhaps even before then. With nothing else happening because everyone was locked down, all the media could do was run constant stories about the ever climbing death toll. At first, well, it was what we expected. Then it started to get a bit repetitive.
These stories tend to get a much frostier reception if reported today. Commentators scold the media for trying to scare us or create fear.
They could, however, get away with it during those early months. With nothing else to do, we had more time for the news. Their stories were constantly about the deaths and after effects of COVID. We were already unable to leave our homes and live our daily lives, with constant mask wearing when we went out, so did we need to be intimidated even more?
It’s not just COVID. Look at the climate protestors, especially the young ones, when interviewed. Some of them cry in fear for their future, weeping about the thought of a planet that could be gone when they have reached adulthood. Considering the constant doomsday coverage of climate change in the news, it’s easy to see where this fear comes from. Kids’ news shows like Sky’s awful FYI focus on the topic regularly. It’s constantly on mainstream news.
Children are more in tune with the world today. With all the darkness in the news and on social media, some will blame it for the declining mental health we are seeing in young people. Indeed, where is the hope? Well, people don’t watch the news to hear about new innovations or cute animals being born in zoos. Fear is more gripping than hope, and a bigger seller too, but it’s not good for morale.
It’s vitally important that we know what’s going on in the world, but too much news is bad for the soul. In a world where it’s all too accessible and the media makes money on constant news, we can’t rely on it for real information. We’re either fed fear or repetitiveness. The obsession with news is, ironically, making us less knowledgeable. Resist the urge to keep up behind what is needed. It’s better for you.