How Television News Creates the Illusion of KnowledgeJanuary 29, 2013
In analyzing network coverage of the Sandy Hook murders, I had no intention of doing a series of articles on television news, but the opportunity to deconstruct the overall grand illusion was compelling.
A number of articles later, I want to discuss yet another sleight-of-hand trick. The myth of “coverage.”
It’s familiar to every viewer. Scott Pelley, in seamless fashion, might say, “Our top story tonight, the widening conflict in Syria. For the latest on the Assad government crackdown, our coverage begins with Clarissa Ward in Damascus…” .
Clarissa Ward has entered the country secretly, posing as a tourist. She carries a small camera. In interviews with rebels, she discovers that a) there is a conflict, b) people are being arrested c) there is a funeral for a person who was killed by government soldiers, d) defiance among the citizenry is growing.
In other words, she tells us almost nothing.
But CBS is imparting the impression that her report is important. After all, it’s not just anchor Scott Pelley in the studio. It’s a journalist in the field, up close and personal. It’s coverage.
Here are a few of the many things we don’t learn from either Pelley or Ward. Who is behind the rebellion in Syria? What is their real goal? What covert role is the US playing? Why are there al Qaeda personnel there?
But who cares? We have coverage. A key hole view. It’s wonderful. It’s exciting for two minutes. If we’re already brainwashed.
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