Why I Stopped Watching Fox News and MSNBC

Let me get this straight–

I’ve never legitimately watched Fox News. Sometimes I happen across it when I’m working out at the gym or it’s turned on at a friends place, but other than that, I avoid Fox News like the plague.

MSNBC on the otherhand started out like a good friend. I adored Rachel Maddow, enjoyed the hosts commentary on the Iowa caucus in 2011 and kept it on in the mornings while I was busy working on other things.

But after a while, MSNBC left a gritty taste in my mouth. That feeling where you want to believe what is being said to you, but you know deep down that someone is lying straight to your face.

It took a while for me to figure it out. After all, I agreed with a lot of the things that were being said on MSNBC, but I soon realized that my blind acceptance was the issue.

I was watching the channel because I agreed with the information being fed to me and I gobbled it up like a delicious cheesecake: no bitter aftertaste but just sweet sliding down my throat.

We all enjoy listening or reading things that parallel our views. We watch fashion shows because we enjoy fashion and we watch sports because we root for our favorite sporting team.

But in the realm of news, we do the same thing. It seems obvious but it took me a while to notice that I was blindly watching only one side of the story.

And it’s difficult these days to determine what is biased and what is objective. The segments on both MSNBC and Fox seem fair to their viewers, but from a different eye, the subjective nature is obvious.

But is it okay for us to knowingly watch or read a news source while having knowledge of the bias? We still eat chocolate cake with knowledge of the calories and we still smoke and drink with the knowledge that they are both unhealthy for our bodies.

I occasionally indulge and watch the Rachel Maddow show. After all, she is humorous and delightful. But a grain of salt is necessary, even when she is spouting her hilarious commentary.

But is it ethically okay as journalists to listen or read these stories that are being presented to us, or do we need to waver more towards objective publications and broadcast sources?


What Journalists Can Learn From Reality Television

jersey shore

Reality television consumes a massive amount of air time on our cable/satellite waves. It also festers in our conversations and entertainment stories that we read online.

It seems that we talk more about trashy events on television or celebrities lives rather than serious issues occurring across the globe.

What can we as journalists learn from the popularity of reality television and gossip magazines, while also remaining the austerity and ethics of our own practice?

1. Being simple and to the point

It’s not hard to get the point when watching a reality television show. Often the story goes: this boy cheats on a girl– she gets revenge on him– huge fight and then resolution.

When it comes to structure, news stories are not so different. We point out the issue in the lede, explain both sides of the story and the action that goes on in between, and end with either a resolution or what may occur in the future.

However, our audience wants brevity and meaning with each word. That means that each sentence should keep readers or viewers on their feet, curious about what is going to happen next. While we want to put in every detail that we personally find important and hate it when our editor’s cut content, it’s a necessary action.

Let’s not muck a story by unnecessary details and make each word count.

2. Connecting with the audience

While an appealing factor of reality television is watching people who lead a different life, another contributing factor to the addictive viewership is the connection a viewer has with an actor or conflict.

It’s easy for reality television shows to connect with viewers since they market towards a specific group and create content accordingly, but news writers can also connect with their audience.

A journalist covers a massive trial and listens to the hearings, and speaks with the lawyers and attorneys. That information is important, but delve deeper. What about the family of the defendant? How are they feeling? What about the parents and friends of the victim? Readers may connect more with a conversation with the family rather than a lecture from a lawyer.

3. Conveying your voice

The actors in reality television shows definitely have a distinct voice. I’m pretty sure most teenage girls could recognize Snooki’s voice without needing to see her face.

Obviously news writers don’t convey their voice in the same sense as they want to remain objective, there is no reason that your writing (or broadcasting) should not have a distinct edge to it.

Think of your favorite news broadcaster or news writer. There’s a reason they’re your favorite and a reason they stand out to you. Whether it’s by the way they form their sentences, or their exquisite attention to miniscule details, every journalist has a voice.

Editors have a more difficult time connecting with viewers than a director for a reality television show does. But while  maintaining our moral integrity, there are a few things that journalists can learn from these shows and appeal to more viewers.

Everything I know, I learned from Parks and Recreation

amy poehler, parks and recreation, nbc, comedy

I love Parks and Recreation. And not just because it’s humorous and Amy Poehler is the most hilarious woman on the face of the planet.

But because there are an abundance of lessons to learn from the show. From understanding our current government to achieving our highest aspirations, Parks and Recreation displays a variety of themes and morals that we will look at more closely.

1. Let your inner geek out

parks and recreation, leslie knope, amy poehler, nbc

Each of us have a thing that we’re very passionate about. And by passionate about, I mean we freak out and obsess over so much that everyone thinks we’re weird.

Leslie Knope geeks out over waffles, independent women in political power and Pawnee. The typical person does not freak out over a breakfast food item or a small miniscule town, but she isn’t afraid to share what she loves with the people around her. And they love her because of her little quirks.

For me, I love cats, clothes and musicals just to name a few things. And I’m not afraid to share stories about my three legged cat or spout off a random show tune with my friends.

It’s the things that we enjoy and take humor in that make us unique individuals.

2. Dedication

parks and recreation, amy poehler, rashida jones, ben wyatt, leslie knope, adam scott

While the world changes around us, dedication defines a large part of who we are.

Who are we dedicated to? Are we dedicated to our job? If someone asks us to do something difficult, will we live up to the task or flake out?

Leslie Knope shows supreme dedication to her friends and to the town of Pawnee. Even when she was offered a better job, she knew that her passion and love for Pawnee was what truly defined her as a person; not her salary or title, but her loyalties.

Throughout the show, no matter how strange or outlandish Leslie may be, her friends remained loyal to her and helped her achieve her aspirations. Why? Because there is a dedication between them.

That’s something important to think about, especially with our up and coming generation. Where do our loyalties lie? Is it with our family, job and friends? Do we dedicate our time to healthy relationships and helping others? Do we dedicate ourselves to our own physical and emotional well-being?

There are many different things that we can dedicate ourselves to in our lifetime. Choosing what is the best for us is often difficult, but once we make that decision, it is our obligation to uphold it.

3. Respecting different political view points

parks and recreation, ron swanson, pyramid

It’s difficult accepting other’s political view points. When I hear someone supporting a different candidate or approving a bill that I disagree with, it’s difficult not to argue. Our morals and political opinions are ingrained at a young age. When we mature, more often than not, we still hold the same opinions. This makes us stubborn as hell.

There are a diverse range of political beliefs in the Parks and Recreation department of Pawnee. From Libertarian Ron Swanson to fairly liberal Leslie Knope, they all have different morals and ethics on how government should be run.

They may disagree but they respect diverse views. Ron doesn’t like government involvement and doesn’t agree with many of Leslie’s choices, but he still respects her views.

In our current political climate, it’s difficult to have a discussion without stepping on toes and offending someone. Not only that, but we immediately assume that the other party are idiots that don’t know what they’re talking about, without taking their ideas and viewpoints into consideration.

Respect is a necessity in all situations, but especially in politics. Even if you’re not directly involved with politics, if you’re just sitting down and chatting with a friend, listen to what they have to say. Even if you don’t agree, you’re all the better for knowing multiple sides of an issue.

4. Government/Politics Matter

parks and recreation, leslie knope, amy poehler

The government plays a role in every aspect of your life. From the water you drink, to your computer and television; everything is regulated by the government one way or another. The sad part is, even though a lot of huge decision are made by congress and the president, the majority of American’s don’t even vote for president. When it comes to voting for governor, mayor, etc… the voter turn out rate is even more abysmal.

In season 4, Leslie campaigns for city council. Her other major competitor is a rich unemployed man who is the son of an owner of a large corporation that plays a massive part in the town of Pawnee. Though Leslie’s competitor is an idiot who doesn’t care about the town, his money makes him prominent. Leslie on the other hand has great ideas, but she is overshadowed by him and his money.

Even though it is just a city council chair, the election is important in the sense that every little bit matters. It’s easy to skip your political research and vote for the candidate that seems most popular or who’s on the the television more often, but that’s when we start losing Leslie Knope’s; the underdog who is thrown aside because she is overshadowed by big money. Overshadowed because people don’t care and don’t get involved if it’s not easy for them.

The next time there is a local election in your area, do your research and remember that every delegate matters. No matter if the delegate is the President of the United States or a mom running for a school board chair, take the time to analyze who would be the best to represent you. Remember, everything in your life is affected by our representative government.

5. Treat yo’ self

No matter how hard we work, we don’t consider ourselves worthy enough to reap the reward. Even if I receive a good grade or a compliment, I always think that I could have done better or worked harder.

When it comes to rewarding ourselves, the people who work the hardest and actually deserve to treat themselves never do.

In the episode Pawnee Rangers, Donna and Tom have a day called, “Treat yo’ self.” It’s a self-indulgent day where they do what they want and purchase what they want. It sounds simple, but we often feel greedy or guilty if we make a major purchase or spend our time doing something unproductive.

Ben Wyatt, a kind, hard working guy has low self-esteem and doesn’t feel like he deserves an item that he’s been yearning.

A Batman costume.

By the end of the episode, Donna and Tom who both have high self-esteem convince him that if something makes you happy, you deserve it.

I’m not encouraging reckless shopping or laziness. All I’m saying is that we all deserve our own “treat yo’ self” moment, where we either go out for our favorite meal or purchase something that’s long been desired and not feel guilty about it.

Because guess what? Even if people consider our society self-indulgent; if you work hard and fulfilled your responsibilities, it’s okay to let go and do or get something that makes you happy, even for just a moment. You’ve only got one life to live, and you might as well live it up.

And if you enjoyed this blog post, check out my other post, “Everything I Know, I Learned From Mean Girls” on my old, more personal/justforfun blog.