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Negative Effect Of TV News Crime And Violence Essay, Research Paper

Television news, due primarily to its obsession with crime and violence, definitely has a negative impact upon our society. TV news is basically an oxymoron; giving us the skin of the truth stuffed with a lie. A news program should be focused on the facts, with perhaps some objective analysis. However, for business purposes, TV news broadcasts use dramatic, usually violent stories and images to capture and maintain an audience, under the pretense of keeping it informed. What we see and hear on the news affects us both consciously and subconsciously, and sends us about our lives unnecessarily fearing the remote dangers that we see excessively portrayed on the evening news. This fact is especially true for our children, who are defenseless against this onslaught of malevolence being brought into our very living rooms in the guise of informative reporting. Why is it that bad news is the only news? Is that all the public finds interest in? Take the story of Jessica Dubroff. Jessica was to become the youngest person to fly across the continent. At the start of her voyage, there was only a smattering of news reports granting her a few seconds of recognition. However, after her plane crashed, and she, her father and trainer were killed, Jessica was front-page news. JonBenet Ramsey is another example; a beautiful little girl with so much going for her, yet not deemed worthy of any media attention until her tragic murder made her a household name. To see the latest horror / thriller, there’s no need to go to your local theater; it’s on television at 10 PM. Yet the news isn’t completely at fault; the people (like myself) who complain that these stories are plethoric are the very people who tune in to watch them every evening, fueling the fire. The long-standing news producer motto, “if it bleeds, it leads,” is alive and well, and the network broadcasts are no better than the locals are. The world news shows are virtually indistinguishable from local news, both leading with blood and guts. Clearly, advertising revenue and the constant pressure to keep the viewers tuned to the station are the driving forces behind the “dumbing down” of TV news. News producers must figure that if they can scare the wits out of people, the people will be more inclined to watch the disproportionate prominence of gore and violence on daily TV news broadcasts. They are experts at creating a visual entertainment package that appeals to our instinctive enthrallment with the horrendous. It interests us, captivates us3/4 we’re riveted. In a way, we experience vicariously the very things we dread. These stories are a highly charged, visceral experience for viewers, and when one of them breaks, there isn’t a TV station that’s not covering it or a person that isn’t talking about it. Journalistically, violent crime pays; it’s cheap to report and it grabs attention. Common sense dictates that stations whose newscasts stress crime-and-violence reporting can cut staff (fewer are needed because the visuals and story line are provided by the events) and improve ratings at the same time (the visuals are compelling for viewers). In fact, crime coverage seems to dominate the available news time. Politics, education, the environment and business average just seconds of attention (excluding, of course, the few weeks prior to an election). This overabundance of crime and violence on TV news inflates the public’s fears for personal safety. It is clear that images have immense power to influence behavior, for good or ill. People, for the most part, believe that TV news is an accurate reflection of reality. They become frightened of the cities they live in, and fear that criminals will harm them or their loved ones. This concern seems to be driven more by media coverage than by one’s personal experiences. The more you watch TV, the more fearful you become. Also, and perhaps more importantly, I think it possible for one to witness so many news reports of senseless acts of violence, brutal murders, and demented killers that he or she becomes desensitized to the point of no longer feeling compassion for the victims or their families. For these reasons, it is imperative that viewers come to their screens with a mind of their own. Not necessarily with preconceived perceptions and prejudices, but rather with a critical awareness that will help determine how they see and interpret things. Television news is dangerous to our children’s emotional and psychological health. Besides the never-ending and far too detailed coverage of the dirty details in the Clinton / Lewinsky affair, TV news terrifies elementary school kids by its constant preoccupation with violence and crime. Graphic coverage of wars, bombings, murders and natural disasters can quite possibly lead to nightmares, depression and other lasting reactions. As adults, we can make concrete choices about what we watch and where we get our information. Our children can’t; they are innocent and more impressionable. We have the ability to tell the difference between reality and deception; our children don’t. The world presented to them on TV is usually a lot scarier than the world they actually live in. Crime statistics go down, yet coverage of crime on TV news increases. Television news seems compelled to “inform” its viewers of all of the latest crimes, tragedies, and disasters, as though these are the only stories worth presenting. But is this really news, and is it a responsible thing for the networks to be doing, or is it a blatant abuse of power? The journalistic “powers that be” could make better use of their resources by at least reporting an imminent threat, to which perhaps the viewers could react (and possibly help deter), rather than to simply show us the devastation that has already occurred, solely for its “entertainment” value. It is a spiritual law that whatever is focused upon increases; we “sow what we reap.” Hence, violence begets violence; fear begets fear; and the dismal world depicted on the evening news becomes a self-fulfilling one. Things are getting worse on TV and all of us, especially our children, are paying a hefty price. If only we could change the old cliché to, “no news is bad news,” it might indeed come to be so.


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