the cnn effect revisited

The readings about the CNN effect and if and to what extend it exists brought it down to one point for me: The CNN effect worked in the early 90s because the circumstances were right. People got their fast information from TV reporting, the more balanced (but late) version from reading the newspaper. Internet did not exist as a mean available as it is now to quickly check facts, background info, or to look at the most recent grueling war video on youtube. Technology changed and hence the CNN effect is not measurable anymore because the viewer does not just rely on TV anymore.

Livingston writes about the many changes in technology that ultimately also changed reporting and the way news is gathered. The rise of the cell phone – which is now equivalent to having a small computer at hand that can get you the information you need right now – gave way to a new reporting style, but one the networks are only catching up on now (with iReports, live twitter and facebook feeds, sending in questions via FB or T etc.).

But unfortunately, before realizing that new technology might be key media outlets dependent on advertising revenue resorted to sensationalism in hopes to keep viewers watching. This resulted in the now biased reporting you see so often. The viewers want something they feel comfortable with yet at the same time, as Powers and El-Nawawy pointed out, if balanced reporting is consumed it informs a balanced opinion.

This leaves me to question why did reporters give up the most basic aspect of their reporting (balanced and unbiased reporting, that is)? Is it just the money? Is the industry so corrupt that you only have the “shallow reporting” way to go because no one will report a “balanced” story? Does it really need a “special week” as CNN has resorted to, to touch on some topics more in depth. The advertising for those weeks leads me to believe that viewers need to prepare for such type of reporting or otherwise they will not be able to comprehend the shift to “investigative” journalism.

I guess where I am getting at with this blog post is that traditional media missed the technology train and now they are trying desperately to get back on. Unfortunately, all this running after the train has resulted in some losses, among them balanced reporting. Can it be recovered? Well, I don’t know. The fact that Powers and El-Nawawy saw a change in viewer’s perception gives me hope that not all mankind is doomed. But at the same time it is up to us viewers to demand balance and investigative journalism that helps inform our opinion not perpetuate our believe system.