Too much opinion in U.S. news makes for curious viewing

Mike Jiggens

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For the first time since at least the middle of March, the current COVID-19 pandemic has surrendered its spot as the world’s No. 1 news story. The senseless killing of George Floyd and the subsequent series of ongoing protests throughout the United States (and some parts of Canada) have taken over as the new headline maker.

Arguably, COVID-19 is still on top of the news locally with the ridiculously high outbreak in cases among migrant farm workers employed by the Vittoria-based Scottlynn Group. That in itself is cause for concern after our locality had made such positive strides forward in recent weeks by doing its part to slow the spread.

I’m not as much a news junkie as some people I know, who seemingly watch nothing but CNN or the CBC News Network all day long. I can normally get my fix of news in about an hour each day. Beyond that it’s overkill. But on Saturday, May 28, I was drawn to CNN to watch several hours of live coverage of the protest demonstrations in the aftermath of the Floyd killing.

Much of it was painful to watch. For several consecutive days, these demonstrations began as peaceful protests but then evolved into rioting, willful acts of vandalism and looting as soon as darkness set in. Unfortunately, the perpetrators of the criminal activity weren’t there as active participants among the peaceful protesters. They had their own agenda, and it wasn’t in any way designed to cry out for change. Honestly, how can the smashing of storefront windows and stealing the merchandise within be sending out a message that Black lives matter and that reform is needed?

Over the next few days, once President Donald Trump threatened to call in the military, I thought it would be interesting to flip channels on occasion to see how other networks were covering this story. Jumping back and forth between CNN and Fox News was like comparing night with day. Regular viewers of CNN are generally liberal-minded while those who prefer to get their news from Fox are… well… largely Trump sympathizers. My guess is CNN outdraws Fox in viewership.

What particularly bothered me was the amount of editorializing taking place among the networks’ news anchors. Tucker Carlson at Fox maintained a rather smug look when on camera and constantly tossed in his own opinion of the live events as they were unfolding. His anti-liberal/anti-Democratic sentiments seemed out of place and uncalled for in what I believe should have been objective news reporting. CNN’s Anderson Cooper was no saint, either, but he comparatively kept his opinions toned down considerably.

Television news – like all U.S. programming – is highly competitive, and it’s all about ratings. It seems the inclusion of showmanship is a big part of how TV news is delivered these days. The Walter Cronkite period of objective news reporting is something from a bygone era. Sure, he got emotional when reporting the news that JFK had been assassinated and when Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon, but these were natural responses to live events that didn’t include name-calling and finger-pointing as seems to be the trend today.

Pictures speak louder than words, though. When a 75-year-old man is pushed to the ground and is lying unconscious with a bleeding head injury while the offending police officer and his fellow cops uncaringly march right on past, that is a powerful image that speaks louder than any commentary could ever provide.

I find the good old CBC is a refreshing alternative to U.S. news coverage. Our newscasters are a little more reeled in than our American counterparts. We’ll provide the same pictures, but will complement them with facts and not so much opinion.

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