40 Hours of Television

The class is over, but the discussion continues. Does the media shape reality, or does reality shape the media? Art can imitate life...and life can imitate art. "40 Hours of TV" will explore the media and its impact on us all.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Infotainment or Journalism?

I don't know who coined the phrase "infotainment," but it's certainly an accurate description of the television news game, circa 2005. Of course, it's been with us a long time now, but the lines between entertainment and journalism are so blurred that it's hard to separate them.

Entertainment Tonight is a great example of infotainment, as are other shows the exclusively feature celebrities and the celebrity lifestyles. A celebrity getting married or having a baby is not news, but we treat it as such.

The cable news networks, such as MSNBC, Fox, and CNN all offer up programming that is infotainment, although in the case of the news networks, the entertainment aspect isn't as obvious. Hannity and Colmes, Hardball, and the recently cancelled Crossfire on CNN all follow the debate show format (not that any debate is happening, as The Daily Show's Jon Stewart correctly pointed out on his infamous Oct. 15, 2004 Crossfire appearance), where talking heads spend an hour basically yelling at each other. It's cheap drama to be sure, but people like to watch. Little information is passed on these shows, but if you're into the yelling format, you'll get lots of entertainment.

Local TV news also employs the infotainment model. Try watching commercials for a local station's 10:00 or 11:00 broadcasts and notice how the commercials are put together: the editing, the music, and how the big "news" items are played up. You'll hear a grim sounding announcer say, "Is the water you are drinking contaminated with feces that can kill you? Tune in to News 12 at 11:00 to find out."

You'll see this form of advertising in the 5:00 or 6:00 newscasts as well: "A News 12 investigation reveals that the water you drink may not be safe...tune in to News 12 at 11:00 to find out."

Another thing to watch out for in your local news is how newsworthy the information is. It can be hard to fill a half hour, or hour, with actual news, and we've been conditioned by the media to expect entertainment in everything we watch.

If you really want straight news without the infotainment...well, good luck in finding it. Actually, if you have cable, your best source for news is The Daily Show on Comedy Central. It's better than anything else on, anyway.


Blogger Cyn said...

Agreed :)

2:45 AM  
Anonymous Drunken Lagomorph said...

I agree about the Daily Show. Sad when a comedy show has higher journalistic standards than mainstream media.

7:48 AM  
Blogger Hector Vex said...

I coined the phrase 'Infotainment!' I swear it!! I also coined the phrase 'ebarfulate' as well.

Hector Vex
Hector Vex's Infotainment

5:46 PM  

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