The Nature of the Beast
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The Nature of the Beast

Why has the news become so entertaining? One scholar notes that television has always been an entertainment media. Like it's predecessor radio, it is a commercial being dedicated to making a profit by amusing its audience. Samuel Winch, in his book Mapping the Cultural Space of Journalism , states that television news is always influenced by the entertainment programming that surrounds it. The boundaries between the two are blurred by both the producers and the consumers. This theory speaks to the growth of the news magazine. The programs are not presented at the typical time a viewer expects to see "the news", either before or after prime time. They are wedged in between situation comedies and police shows. There is no obvious distinction between the two.

In fact, there has been a blend of fact and fiction on the program Dateline. In 1993, in a consumer report on General Motors trucks, the program suggested that these vehicles were likely to explode when involved in side impact collisions. Footage showed a fiery explosion involving one such vehicle. It was later revealed that the producers of the story included an incendiary device on the truck to make it blow up during the simulated accident. The anchors apologized and the producers were dismissed. This incident happened six years ago, when Dateline was only aired one night a week. Now it is on five times a week. Obviously, this betrayal of the public trust did little to stop the growth of the program, or other shows like it. Dramatic re-enactments are another way to increase the entertainment value of these news programs. In 1993, 20/20 featured an actress portraying Lorena Bobbitt as she fled from her home after she cut off her husband's penis. Apparently, the story in and of itself was not entertaining enough. It required a visualization of the crime itself. This blurring of the lines between fact and fiction would be fine if it were presented as a television movie of the week, or in some other forum. As part of a news program, the dramatic reenactment violates the trust the public places in journalists to provide the truth.


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