Beware of Establishment Media

By Grant Morgan, Arts & Life Editor

Said the broken record looping in my head: You can’t spot-reduce fat…you can’t spot-reduce fat. How many times?! You can’t spot-reduce fat!

I was eating hotel-provided breakfast in front of an unnecessarily large flat-screen TV in Philadelphia. The morning news show was on; two beautiful young anchors were filling me in on the events of the world.

Ah, morning news. What an easy and simple way to catch up with the world—how efficient and enlightening. Or so I thought.

Flashing headlines rolled across the screen with big bold letters: “USE ULTRASOUNDS TO DETECT BODY FAT.”

I didn’t think that fell under the auspice of “important world news,” but it was interesting, so I thought I’d listen in. Perhaps an update on the economy (or the conflicts in the Middle East, China’s oppression, Charlie Hebdo—things like that) would come next.

I was wrong. The screen turned back to the anchors; there they waited with an exercise “expert” who was ready to tell us about all the benefits of seeing our body’s fat.

I don’t remember exactly what he said, but I can paraphrase. It went something like: If you can afford it, get the ultrasound. Then you can better know what areas of your body to exercise—how frequently, in what manner, etc.

But…you can’t even spot-reduce fat…Really? This is all they come up with?

Apparently, yes. They kept the expert on for five minutes to talk about the potential benefits of a tailored exercise regime. Then they switched stories to a picture of a Chihuahua riding water skis with goggles on—certainly something everyone must see. Then the show ended.

My story seems to be the unfortunate normalcy. We turn on the cable news and—like it or not—these frivolous and dramatized stories appear. And though they may be quick to grab our attention, we must be weary of whether they keep our attention.

I’m talking about the establishment media: the oligarchy of news corporations who pander to the passions of the masses, who so narrowly exhaust a single story so long as it keeps their viewers, who use dangerous assumptions to make things worse than they are, who bring on “experts” to talk on subjects they have never personally dealt with, who smother objectivism with personal conviction, who…oh, there’s no point in going off. There are problems with these types of news outlets. Can we please turn them off?

In an age of unprecedented access to news, our freedom has distracted us from the most important, and the establishment media has noticed. Their sponsors—big corporations—keep them afloat so long as the news is catered to them. And what we gain from sensational satisfaction is far less than what we lose from ignorance of current events.

But there are ways we can reverse this trend. Many listener-supported entities or free applications on mobile devices give alternatives to large cable news networks. They cover the essentials; they cover the stories that are necessary for a citizenry to understand, because a connected global community requires community awareness.

But I can only argue so much in a short time, so here I will list some of those applications and sites that have worked well for me, and perhaps will work well for others: Circa, Reddit, Al Jazeera English, Reuters, SmartNews, BBC News, and Flipboard. Most of these can be downloaded as applications on mobile devices or looked at online. Some of them contain stories from establishment outlets, but they do a good job of weeding out the bad from the good.

If not clear enough, let me now list those news outlets that exemplify my complaints: CNN, Fox, ABC, NBC, MSNBC, Newsweek and The Sun among others.

Lastly, it helps to form a daily habit of reading the news. For example, take 15 minutes every morning to read the headlines and first paragraph of some of those mobile applications. The headlines engrain the stories in our heads while the first paragraph gives an easy overview. And so long as we stray from the establishment media, we are all the more likely to have a fair and broad understanding of the world around us.