Al Jazeera Could Shake up TV News in U.S.
"If it bleeds, it leads." Most of us know this old newspaper saying all too well. Any general news medium you look at today has an abundance of frightening and depressing stories for you to worry about. This is nothing new.
Peter Diamandis, an entrepreneur who spoke at TED last year, explained it this way. The human brain deals with a tremendous amount of data every day, and there is no way to process it all. So our brain (the amygdala, to be exact) prioritizes data and the first type of information we process is anything that could impact our survival. So therein lies our natural instinct to gravitate to scary news stories.
The media has known this for centuries. Fear is a part of media's business model. But television media companies in the U.S. have taken this way too far. TV news is almost embarrassing to watch these days.
Lois Paul summed it up nicely the other day saying, "What’s on air now is a constant series of sensational "panic in the streets" reports, followed by obsessive/compulsive chasing of the latest celebrity faux pas, murder or gossip." I think the word "panic" is key - with all of the news-toting devices accessible today. People can't help but feel anxious after seeing endless horrific stories. And sure, celebrity gossip can be entertaining in a weak moment - but it's not news. Well, in America it has morphed into news, but that could change.
This week, a new TV network arrived in the U.S. that aims to take a different approach. Al Jazeera, a media company headquartered in Qatar and known throughout much of the world, is investing millions in a new broadcast network aimed at the U.S. It is the largest investment in a media outlet in the U.S. in modern times, according to The New York Times. And the funding is pretty much limitless, as Qatar's revenue channel stems from numerous Middle Eastern oil companies and investments.
Al Jazeera is positioning the new network as a 24-7 PBS-type news program, similar to BBC. And it has more than 900 people on staff and 400 of them are reporters! It has stated that its mission is to be focused on the facts, and it will include fewer celebrities, arguments and sensationalism currently found on U.S. networks.
Personally, I hope it succeeds and raises the bar for other TV networks. People are not as stupid as the broadcast networks think. And American viewers will be flattered to find a network that is giving viewers more factual news stories and less sensationalism. Sure, the conspiracy theorists and anti-Middle East crowd will raise objections, but if Al Jeezera really offers solid reporting and stories, quality journalism will prevail. I'm anxious to see how it goes!
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