Mainstream Media for Dummies

20130815-075638.jpgEarlier this week I had a small accident, which has resulted in a pretty banged up rib cage and has left me no choice but to remain essentially horizontal on the couch, unable to work or do much of anything. I’ll be fine in a few more days, but the experience of laying on the sofa watching daytime TV is something I haven’t done in a while, and it’s been a curious experience.

The majority of my media consumption happens online these days, with the exception of the 6pm news and one or two “guilty pleasure” shows that I take in occasionally. Even my movie and TV series watching happens on iTunes or Netflix mostly these days. I control what I see, when I see it, and how I view it.

The experience of consuming daytime talk shows over the past few days has been an interesting one, and at times has been intensely frustrating. The first thing I have noticed is the abundance of overly chipper, bouncy hosts. Their squeaky voices (yes, even the men) are at times piercing, and the giggling is often out of control. Throw a couple of co-hosts in there, and you’ve got the daytime TV equivalent to a gaggle of teenage girls gossiping about the cute boy in math class. The content is weak, the hosts talk over each other and it often seems that they don’t even realize the viewers are watching.

And then there’s the subject matter. Look, I’m all for lighthearted news stories – there’s too much bad news out there, we need to balance it with something fun – but I’m shocked at how dumbed-down daytime TV has become. The questions the hosts ask their guests are so basic that even a 5 year old could sound more intelligent. The topics discussed these days are so generic and seem more designed to sell products than to actually give away any relevant information.

I find this trend unfortunate and a bit disconcerting. I mean, I’m all for lighthearted entertainment, but when I as a viewer am being essentially ignored and when topics are being discussed are at a 2nd grade level, it’s not only boring but disrespectful to the audience too.

So, I turn off the TV, and retreat to my safe online spaces, where I get to choose my own adventure. I get to find the sources that I find entertaining and informative, where the audience is respected as intelligent with informed opinions.

Media is changing, and it’s changing fast. Television is not what it used to be, to be sure, and as it grasps and grapples to maintain relevancy, I fear it’s getting lost in a sea of self-serving, dumbed down, generic fluff that doesn’t give its audience enough credit, and that is worrisome.

What’s more worrisome is that this may well be what people want.


Photo Credit: Melissa Segal via Compfight cc

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  • August 15, 2013 at 8:26 am

    Here’s the trick with those shows: look at the commercials.
    The commercials tell you the demographic that the show is targeted for. I used to get upset by a lot of television shows and then noticed the commercials: PayDay Loans, slip-&-fall lawyers, cheap auto insurance, “get debt collectors to stop calling you.”
    The show wasn’t meant for me or general consumption. You’re not going to see commercials for luxury cruises or New Zealand vacations. The targeted viewers don’t have any money. LOL!
    Thus, these shows are disappointing in other ways. Or, they point to a harsh reality: there are people whose lives survive with minimum auto coverage, and borrowing $200 at 700% interest rates. It’s sad. And they’re in enough numbers to be a legitimate demographics for television advertisers.

  • August 15, 2013 at 8:39 am

    There is something to be said for tuning out certain content. Even online. I choose to focus on food and recipes rather politics and fighting, while others will focus in on gossip and lighthearted b.s. or cat videos to fill up their days and heads. One of the best blogger gossips out there today is one of the smartest, and she challenges us to think socially, anthropologically, humanly and critically about what we consume daily on and offline. It’s not all unicorns and cotton candy. Most of it is, but not all of it.
    Interesting side note – we have been DVR’ing the tv show The Newsroom since it started, but just yesterday did we sit down to try to watch any of the 20+ episodes. You are making a lot of the same points the characters on that show make, about the same problem in tv. If you haven’t seen it, I know you of all people will like this show, even if Sorkin is bad at writing dialogue for two women in the same scene. But, I ignore that flaw of his because what he does get right, he nails it to the wall 100% of the time. It’s a very strong social condemnation and a very earnest attempt to turn the tide on broadcasting and journalism. We’re 4 episodes in and I’m kicking myself for waiting this long to get onboard. D-oh.

  • August 15, 2013 at 9:46 am

    I’ve always thought it was a concerted effort on behave of those controling content that daytime T.V. should of a certain low caliber so as to aid those heading off to work. Possibly its a vestige from when before recording devices were so prevelant that its fare should be of a less desirable nature in order to be less attractive for us to skip work, ditch school what have you. Just a theory. 
    Given the many alternate forms of entertainment these days, maybe they’ve simply given up fighting for the daytime advertising dollar with good content in order to concentrate on more modern formats…….Just don’t know. 
    “Get well get well soon, we want you to get weeelllllll”



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