Entertaining News: Helpful or Harmful?
In journalism, qualities that make stories “newsworthy” include conflict, timeliness, human interest, and more. “Infotainment,” or news programming that is meant to entertain, is builds on these characteristics as well as others, including humor, to attract viewers. Good examples of this are shows like The Daily Show with Trevor Noah and Jimmy Kimmel Live.
With the rise of a large number of other channels with shows about everything from cooking to comedy to fixing up houses, the media can take back some viewers by making the news more entertaining. While it may not be pure infotainment, as my textbook says, “Journalists often draw a distinction between news and entertainment, but the line is clearly blurred in practice” (Kollman 551).
A good example of this is the lists of the wildest Trump quotes that CNN has put out. While I did find them fun to read, looking back, I have to ask myself if these lists are really a good idea. An outlet that often has a liberal slant gathering all of a conservative politician’s shocking quotes and putting them together in a list with strikes me as polarizing (though Trump does have a lot of quotes like this) and shallow rather than something that would educate voters and promote a serious, constructive mindset about politics. This CNN example plays on the newsworthiness characteristics of being unusual or rare. Shocking quotes are more likely to keep a reader scrolling through an article than an article about a policy. It also appeals to readers because it involves conflict by invoking partisanship.
There are different arguments for and against the move toward entertaining news. Some say it takes coverage away from important issues, while others say entertaining news engages readers who aren’t very interested in politics and helps them learn more. Whatever the case, we should be mindful of how our news is being presented to us.
Kollman, Ken. The American Political System. 3rd ed., W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2017.