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If You Get News from TV, You Are Doing it Wrong

Posted by Beetle B. on Mon 18 January 2016

When I was young, I lived in a country that had no cable TV or satellite dishes. My only sources of news were from newspapers and radio. The Web practically did not exist.

First Exposure

In the early 90’s, I visited another country for over a month to visit relatives. Over there, I did have access to CNN International.

I was excited. CNN had made a big name for itself in covering the Iraq War.

I started watching. I watched my first news hour. I absorbed the news.

Hours later, I was curious to see what had transpired since I last watched. I tuned in to CNN, and…

The news was exactly the same.

Really? In the last six hours, nothing new happened around the world?

I watched it on and off for the rest of my vacation, and couldn’t help but notice that in 24 hours of CNN broadcasts, there was less news content than in my newspaper.

This bears repeating:

In 1-2 hours of reading a newspaper, I would learn more about what was going on in the world than by watching CNN International for 24 hours.

And I am not talking about voluminous newspapers like The New York Times. The newspapers I am referring to were about 12-14 pages, and had everything from comics, to entertainment, to sports, to world affairs.

What a letdown.

Second Exposure

Some years later, I got a satellite dish, and had access to BBC World. I was excited. I grew up listening to the BBC World Service on radio, and while their reporting had issues, the breadth of material they would broadcast was impressive.

I watched it for a few days.

And yet again: 1-2 hours of reading the newspaper provided me with more news content than 24 hours of watching BBC TV. Sadly, their TV station had less content than their radio service.

What a letdown.

Multiple Exposures

Since then, I have watched a lot of news channels. The conclusion is the same. Most of them are even worse than CNN International and BBC World.


I frequently hear about the intense pressure placed upon the journalists and staff members of these networks. Live news is challenging! They need to be the first!

And yet, there is less news content than in the newspaper.

You really should ask yourself why. If they are working under intense pressure, why is the news content so low? It is an interesting intellectual exercise.

That Other Station

I know if I just stop here, someone is definitely going to ask “What about Al-Jazeera English?”

I watched Al-Jazeera English off and on for several years, stopping around 2012 or 2013.

They were impressive. I learned a lot about other parts of the world that no news station seems to cover:

  • Conflicts in obscure portions in the Philippines
  • Conflicts in obscure parts of Thailand
  • Conflicts in West Papua

And not just conflicts. Several vignettes into the lives of native peoples all over the world. Nepal, Senegal, Rwanda, Myanmar. The list is extensive.

They were (and likely still are) leaps and bounds ahead of the competition. They have a huge scope, and the breadth of topics covered far exceeds any other station.

In fact, I would say their news content may be up to triple that of typical news channels.

So what does that give us?

In 4-5 hours of reading a newspaper, I would learn more about what was going on in the world than by watching Al Jazeera English for 24 hours.

Sorry, but as great as they may be, I still consider them to be “low” in news content.

If you are getting your news from TV, you are doing it wrong.

tags : news