By Jonel Juste
“Something is rotten in the state of Denmark”, wrote Shakespeare in Hamlet. This quote could apply today to the press in particular and to society in general. Something is rotten in the way information is being broadcast.
For example, if you only watch 7News, chances are you don’t know what is really happening around you and the world. Additionally, WSVN mostly broadcasts depressing news and portrays the state of Florida as the most perilous place on earth. You feel like if you risk a toe outside you could be robbed, assaulted or even killed. It seems like there is always something wrong happening here. In fact, there is always something wrong happening anywhere on the planet. However, broadcasting this particular kind of news is always an editorial choice deliberately made by a TV station. The question is what motivates it to cast more negative news than positive ones. Such a poor choice may be the attraction of sensationalism, greed, the viewers’ addiction to horrible stories, and journalistic laziness.
Bad news is sensational, whether it is an accident, a murder, a disaster or a mass killing in an elementary school. The horrible news is the most watched on television and some TV stations like WSVN have understood that truth a long time ago. They have noticed that their audience rate is increasing when the news is bad. That’s why 7News is a perpetual drama, from the beginning until the end. If you have a blood pressure issue or any heart problem, you better avoid watching the news on channel 7. Usually, I am optimistic. Watching that kind of news triggers pessimism in me, so I change the channel. WSVN portrays Miami as the worst city in the country. I am not saying that Miami is 100% secure and that you should not pay attention to your surroundings or not to watch yourself. I am saying that there are two different Miamis, the real city and the one portrayed by WSVN. The worst thing you could do to yourself is to watch 7News in the morning before going out. The only thing I can stand watching on this channel is weather forecast and Inside Edition which is the only interesting news on 7. Then I turn on CBS or ABC.
The second reason why WSVN broadcast bad news is financial. It’s about the money, the dough, the long green. Dismal news is more profitable than positive ones. The rate of adrenaline is higher when people watch horrible stories than the happy-ending ones, some studies show. The bad news carries more emotions and they are more likely to get the viewers stuck to their seat. The more you keep the viewers watching, the more you can pour a flow of commercials into their brain and that’s how you cash the money. TVs cash on commercials and the time people spend on them. They can even control how many viewers they get and how long they’ve been watching, like the views on YouTube.
The third reason is connected to the second one. Good news doesn’t sell. TV won’t spend their time working on stories that won’t profit them a bit. They won’t look for it, they have no interest in broadcasting it if they can’t cash in. Editors are always looking for something that can pop, and, unfortunately, it’s often a bad story. Moreover, journalists are sometimes too lazy to go after a profound story, to dig deeper for anything consistent when they can find a murder or a theft around the corner. Nevertheless, to be honest we must admit that some TV stations make the effort of finding nice stories that bring a smile on the viewer’s face. That’s the exception to the rule; the trend is to show morbidity because that’s where the money is.
We could spend this whole essay criticizing TV station like WSVN; we could say how much they are bad like the news they broadcast. However, isn’t it more appalling that a low-spirited news broadcaster like 7 is not out of business? Au contraire, it is one of the most successful in South Florida. What happens? Where its success comes from? Why is their news magazine still number one in Miami? Because they know their audience, they know what they like to watch. Maybe people check the news to see what is going wrong. Channel 7 understood this and serve the daily bad news to their viewers. I have a friend who is addicted to 7 News. This man became paranoid. He came to think that everybody is crooked, that people only have bad intentions, that crime is rampant in South Florida and so on. Of course, my friend had it wrong, but it seems he liked to know that things were going bad. He was naturally a pessimist and watching bad news made his condition worse.
Finally, the fact that TV stations like WSVN have not closed a long time ago reveals there is also a problem with the society. Crimes and violence have become daily news because the society produces them. Movies have become more and more violent, mass shootings are more frequent at school, kids are bringing guns to their school to kill children like them. We live in a society that has trivialized violence. Video games become more violent than ever and they greatly influenced our children. Some games are demonic. We could blame the media all the year long, but the truth is the press is a part of the society. As a faithful mirror, it reflects the reality so that we can see how ugly things are. If we were living in an ideal society, there would surely be another kind of press.