The Token Conservative

Walter Cronkite is dead.

Not the man-the idea. It was apparent to me as I watched some television news for Olympic coverage. An ad for the station came on, and the way the station’s value was argued had the reverse effect on me.

Some argue that Walter Cronkite single-handedly legitimized television news. During the 1960s, his coverage of the Kennedy assassination, the Vietnam War and astronauts landing on the moon elevated television news to the public’s most trusted medium.

Voyeurism is all I see today on commercial television news.

The ad that disgusted me featured a high school student talking about seeing that station’s crew filming an accident outside his school. The student said he had a lot of respect of the station for being on the scene so fast. That night, he watched the coverage and found out that the young driver was speeding. Now, the student said, he will never speed on that road.

Hold my keyboard while I puke?

The message was clear: This station’s reports are useful and will improve your life.

The lies were also clear: The station feeds voyeurism while saying it’s good for you.

A teenager seriously wounded outside of a high school is sensational television, not good, useful information. The executives know that teenagers don’t watch the news; they didn’t produce the story to warn young drivers.

I’m studying Immanuel Kant this semester, and Kant would ask why every accident on every road isn’t covered, or why every stupid thing every teenager does isn’t on the evening news.

The answer is because that station was lying. Boob-tube news is about entertainment, not information.

This fact really struck me last semester when a classmate asked who had heard of a young man in California who committed a horrible murder. I hadn’t, and I listen to the news every morning. I began to question the quality of my preferred source since it wasn’t telling me this kind of important information.

Then I caught myself. How was that important? I realized that my favorite source, KUER radio, never covers disgusting murders or senseless crimes. It only presents information that will make me a better citizen and member of society.

That’s also the goal of newspapers. In fact, that is the goal of journalism as a profession. That’s what Cronkite stood for.

Dictionary.com describes a voyeur as an obsessive observer of sordid or sensational subjects. Sounds like the target audience for footage of a crime scene at a West Valley City convenience store, an elementary school principal wallowing in gelatin with a shaved head and yes, an injured high school kid who crashed his car.

Maybe you think knowing about these events is useful and helpful. I think an argument can be made for that. But why watch it?

Reading or hearing the information allows one to think about and absorb it better. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but sometimes a thousand words are more valuable and informative than a picture.

I hope the kid who crashed his car is all right, but I don’t see why I should sit through 30 minutes of commercials to see it.

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