Mainstream Media for Dummies
Earlier 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.