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How to Watch Television News

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How to Watch Television News

How to watch television news? What a strange question! It is like asking how to eat with your mouth closed. I never thought the question could be so important, let alone fill one hundred-and-sixty-nine pages of a book. I mean, we are talking about news right? Truths and facts based on everyday events. But as I was reading Neil Postman's book How to Watch Television News, I realized not only is it a worthwhile question, it is a question of utmost importance as it shapes our senses, humor and perception. Television news not only has invaded our time, truths, and values but it also questions our right to privacy, our sense of reality and judgment, and last but not least our courtrooms.

How much time do we spend on television? In the book, How to Watch Television News the average young American spends nineteen thousand hours of their waking hours in front of a television set. That means exposure to roughly 13, 000 killings, 200, 000 violent episodes, and more or less 650, 000 commercials by age eighteen. (How to Watch Television News. P141, 142) Every time I go back to my home country South Africa, I realize how television news in the USA can de-sensitize and make one oblivious to truth. We lose perspective on what is important and valuable to know because we are bombarded with news that has lost its relevance and meaning. The essential gets replaced with the non essential. We know many things, but not necessarily what is important. News has become entertainment that conflicts with truth. We want the drama, sensation, action, and entertainment that news produces all day long. If there is no news, it gets fabricated and reenacted and producers create simulated reality called docudramas. In 2006, Bill Clinton criticized the ABC docudrama production The Path to 9/11 for being inaccurate and unfair. (How to Watch Television News. P92, 93)

With our hunger for sensation and entertainment, televised trials are great for attracting large audiences, which mean higher rates for commercials, leading to better salary deals when contracts are negotiated. (How to Watch Television News. P128) In the process television turn trials into a public spectacle. A "hot" trial like that of Casey Anthony was featured with commentators guiding us through the proceedings which made Casey Anthony a celebrity featured not only on television news, but also in magazines and newspapers. I regret to say that watching the trial did not increase my knowledge of the court system. Instead my focus was on Casey Anthony, the jury, and the facial expressions and emotions shown by all in the courtroom. My judgment along with many was based on public sentiment and exaggerated media frenzy. This is similar to the O.J. Simpson trial in 1995 when the cast of characters became as famous as any TV or movie star. I recently watched on television news the video taken of Dalia Dippolito

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