Read How to Watch TV News by Neil Postman Free Online
Book Title: How to Watch TV News|
The author of the book: Neil Postman
Edition: Penguin Books
Date of issue: September 1st 1992
ISBN 13: 9780140132311
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 889 KB
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Reader ratings: 4.7
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This was short and to the point (well, mostly to the point). It is a bit dated, so you can skip most of the figures, but then figures like how much an ad cost to produce in 1990 go in one ear and out the other anyway.
I might use some of the ideas in this book when I’m teaching next year. This book doesn’t say, Don’t watch TV news – but it does say you should cut your TV news watching by a third and that watching TV news tends to make you depressed and fearful.
The best of this book, though, is not so much the suggestions at the end – more or less, think as you watch and come to TV news knowing stuff already rather than hoping to learn stuff from it. The best of this book are the bitchy parts about how newsrooms are populated by perfect families – the greying male presenter as dad and his wife, the female senior correspondent and their pretty and vivacious adult daughter, the weather girl and maybe a crazy uncle in the sports presenter.
I hadn’t ever thought about the significance of the ad breaks that always come just before the weather. Apparently, the weather is one of the most watched bits of the news, so they always show ads before it as this is when people are really focused. They say amusing things also about maps with Hs and Ls chasing each other around – I wonder how many people have any idea what a synoptic chart means.
The best advice in this is to remember that the News is really a Show and a very profitable one at that. It makes money by selling advertisements. There is a lovely quote from McLuhan that “Advertisements constitute the only 'good news' in the newspaper”. They also say very interesting things about the relationship between ads (think about yourself, there are simple solutions to all your problems and they are called ‘products’) and journalism (think less about yourself and more about the world you inhabit). They think this is a productive and interesting tension and one that is worth thinking about as you watch the news.
But the best of all of this book was when they spoke about how much of television news is really about modern reenactments of the seven deadly sins – politician in bed with 18 year old as one of a story or two about lust, some shots of fat kids for gluttony, some huge house sold on the coast for $25 million for avarice and so on.
The problem is that television is about pictures and about drama – it is not about analysis. So, if you want to know more about the world watching a half hour news program (interesting stat: with the same number of words as a single page of newsprint) probably isn’t really going to help you. But newspapers have similar problems in that they too are obsessed with NOW rather than how we got here or where we are likely to be going. My best advice would be to read more books than you watch television or read newspapers – it is always best to give advice you know few are likely to follow…
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Read information about the authorNeil Postman, an important American educator, media theorist and cultural critic was probably best known for his popular 1985 book, Amusing Ourselves to Death. For more than four decades he was associated with New York University, where he created and led the Media Ecology program.
He is the author of more than thirty significant books on education, media criticism, and cultural change including Teaching as a Subversive Activity, The Disappearance of Childhood, Technopoly, and Building a Bridge to the Eighteenth Century.
Amusing Ourselves to Death (1985), a historical narrative which warns of a decline in the ability of our mass communications media to share serious ideas. Since television images replace the written word, Postman argues that television confounds serious issues by demeaning and undermining political discourse and by turning real, complex issues into superficial images, less about ideas and thoughts and more about entertainment. He also argues that television is not an effective way of providing education, as it provides only top-down information transfer, rather than the interaction that he believes is necessary to maximize learning. He refers to the relationship between information and human response as the Information-action ratio.
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