For many years, our family has gone out to eat frequently. Because we work from home and homeschool our daughter, it’s nice to unplug at the end of the day and go out on the town. All through the scamdemic, we made it our personal mission to keep some of our favorite joints in business. We have eaten at most of the restaurants around here at least once, and that’s saying a lot when you live in a metro area with upwards of a million people.
During this period of high inflation, however, going out to eat has become a demoralizing experience. We are (very) far from struggling financially, but it feels stupid to pay such high prices for totally ordinary fare. Most of the restaurants cannot find quality staff, and it seems like the people working in the hospitality business keep getting worse and worse. I used to be of the “don’t blame the restaurant owners, they are doing the best they can” persuasion, but that reasoning does have its limits. I’m not so pro-small business that I am going to pay $200 to be served food by someone who looks like they might give me Hepatitis.
Anyway, all this is to say, I am spending a lot of time in the kitchen cooking family meals these days. And I love cooking, so I don’t mind it at all. I have two pheasants and a duck lined up for meals this week, all of which costs less than a single meal at a restaurant now. It’s ridiculous.
So I have taken to watching the local news on network television while chopping, etc., because there’s nothing left on the various streaming services we have that I want to watch. I cannot tell you the last time I turned on traditional broadcast television before now. It has definitely been for several years.
You will not be surprised to learn that the local news in South Florida is actually quite entertaining. It’s basically an hour line-up of the antics of Florida Man, and Florida Man never disappoints. Yesterday there was a video of a man stealing a yacht from his boss and getting chased by a police armada all along the coast. The news anchors don’t even try to be professional, either. They show the video, then start laughing hysterically and show it again in slow motion. Then there’s a segment on how a manatee stole a child’s surfboard. They interviewed the child, and the child was like “I let the manatee have it because it was big.” We would too, little man.
At the top of the hour, the joy and good humor of the local journalists are replaced with NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt. That’s when the DOOM begins.
Every night, Lester Holt tells you how you are going to die. I’m not kidding. Last night, they led with the fact that summer is, in fact, hot. In giant letters across the screen, they inform you that there are now 151 MILLION PEOPLE IN THE US LIVING IN CONDITIONS OVER 90 DEGREES. Then they start talking about climate change and how we are all going to die. Having lived in the South my entire adult life, I long for the summer where 90 degrees seems like a reasonable threshold for unbearable heat. When we lived in central Texas two decades ago, 100 days over 100 degrees was the story of every summer. We moved away from there so I could have a garden. (I’m still on team God bless Texas though. Love the Lonestar State.)
The next segment is obviously about mass shootings. In this one, a good Samaritan managed to shoot and kill a deranged mass murderer in a mall food court within seconds of his spree beginning. Most normal human beings would consider that a positive development, especially after the infuriating law enforcement response at Uvalde. If I found myself and my family on the wrong end of a psychopath, I’m pretty sure I would not complain if a good old boy dropped that SOB like a 12-point buck within seconds. In fact, I’d probably buy him a brand new truck and send flowers to his mother. Alas, the same is not true for NBC. Instead, NBC wants you to know that a mass murder has only been stopped by a good Samaritan 24 times in recent years, so you are probably still going to die in a mass shooting, and if the mass shooting doesn’t kill you, remember that climate change will. And can we even be sure that this guy is a good Samaritan after all? Was he obeying all local laws and regulations when he took down that mass murderer? Talk about losing the plot.
Okay, let’s move on to how civilians are being killed in our latest proxy war with Russia and how our president is on a global tour begging brutal dictators to produce more oil because the Democratic Party cares so deeply about climate change or something. We told you that you were going to die from climate change, right? Just making sure we work climate change into literally every segment.
The DOOM continues until the last 30 seconds of the broadcast, where they tell you an uplifting story about how a disabled athlete has inspired disabled children. Their obligatory, performative human interest story is as formulaic as the DOOM – always at the very end, always very short, and it concludes with Holt admonishing everyone to “take care of each other” because, you know, Armageddon is just around the corner. Then Wheel of Fortune starts, and you’ve never been so thrilled to see Pat Sajak and Vanna White.
It’s truly like having poison injected into your veins watching this stuff. I mean, I knew this was a real problem, and that the people addicted to watching this stuff are all dealing with serious mental illness by now – as are the people producing it. The news industry which loves political and other violence so much is one of the biggest factors in the growth of that violence. But it’s another thing to sit down and watch it for yourself.
I know Trump Derangement Syndrome broke a lot of brains, but it is somewhat fascinating how the people producing the news need toxicity. In the absence of Trump, they now cling to absolutely anything negative. I’m sure walking through their Manhattan offices is like getting off the train in San Francisco and passing through the corridor or junkies staring off into space. These folks have been so consumed by hate that they are zombies completely alienated from their actual physical environment and anything productive that might be occurring there.
Humorously, media personalities find themselves puzzling over why Americans are tuning the news out in record numbers. Surely they aren’t the problem. Surely their unhinged and unbalanced coverage isn’t the reason. It must be that Americans can’t handle the truth.
Engagement with news content has plunged during the first half of this year compared to the first half of 2021 and in some cases has fallen below pre-pandemic levels.
Why it matters: Americans have grown exhausted from the constant barrage of bad headlines that have replaced Trump-era crises, scandals and tweets.
The big picture: The level of news consumption in 2021 took a nosedive following historic highs in 2020. Despite a slew of major stories, readers have retrenched further in 2022.
The war in Ukraine, a series of deadly mass shootings, the Jan. 6 hearings and the Supreme Court’s revocation of abortion rights haven’t been able to capture the same level of attention spurred by the onset of the pandemic and the 2020 election.
Details: Engagement with news content across all platforms declined significantly in the first half of 2022.
Cable viewership across the three major cable news networks — CNN, Fox News and MSNBC — is, on average, down 19% in prime time for the first half of this year compared to the first half of 2021. Those losses skew heavily toward CNN and MSNBC, which are down 47% and 33%, respectively. Fox’s ratings are up 12% in that six-month span.
News app sessions for the top 12 mainstream most-trafficked publishers dropped 16% in the first half of 2022, according to data from Apptopia.
Website visits for the top 5 news websites in the U.S. by unique visits tracked by Similarweb dropped 18% in the first half of 2022.
Engagement on social media with news articles cratered over the past six months, dropping 50% since the first half of last year, despite more articles published, according to data from Newswhip. Engagement is measured by interactions with articles posted, which includes likes, comments and shares.
Axios suggests that Facebook trying to migrate news content to its news feed is part of the reason why news engagement on social media is down. Of course, this is contradicted by two trends. First, Facebook is reorganizing its feed away from news because most of their users are sick and tired of seeing toxic news stories and want more positive content from their real social connections. It’s bizarre to expect users to engage with content they outright loathe.
Second, Facebook is losing a lot of engagement in general to other platforms that are not news- and commentary- centric. Your Q-Anon uncle may still be prattling away on Facebook 70 times a day, but everyone else is watching dance videos on TikTok, if they are consuming social media at all. Facebook has become a veritable ghost town. So has Twitter (but Twitter has always been a platform where a very, very small percentage of obsessive users are contributing the lion’s share of content and engagement and a lot of interactions involve sock-puppet accounts). There’s a reason these companies have watched their market capitalization get sliced nearly in half this year. They aren’t cool anymore.
This trend is also not due to covid fading as a concern or Trump no longer being in the White House. Biden is less popular than Trump ever was, largely because folks can’t name a single good thing that is happening in our country right now and even the mere sight of him is pathetic. The vacant gaze, constantly tripping and falling down, attempting to shake hands with the air around him because the teleprompter told him to shake hands. Every single essential service in this country is experiencing problems – supply chains are messed up, basic travel is messed up, the energy market is messed up across several different commodities, the prices for food and housing are soaring, the Federal Reserve is jacking up interest rates rapidly risking financial instability, the markets book 3-5% swings like they are nothing. There’s no global pandemic to blame it on, either – there’s just the fact that the White House has now become the world’s most expensive nursing home and we are all footing the bill in myriad ways.
Folks have so many real problems in their daily lives, they don’t need to pile on the media’s latest fake outrage or general hysteria. What they want is relief, and it’s spite and incompetence as far as the eye can see online and on television. So they are voting with their attention span.
But there’s also another pretty obvious reason why households are consuming less news: They don’t want their children to remember their childhoods like this. Their kids have already shouldered endless idiotic covid restrictions. They’ve watched their educations and social lives shattered. They are going to school with kids that have thoroughly internalized the DOOM and are now dragging their classmates into their suicide plots.
You don’t get a mulligan on parenthood, and folks understand it. They don’t want their kids to look back on a their formative years and say, yeah, growing up sucked more than you can imagine and my parents did jack shit about it. People were depressed about everything, everything around me was broken for no reason. There really wasn’t anything worth living for.
No one wants that for their kids, and if the solution is as easy as changing the channel, there you have it. Frankly, the best thing that could happen to our country right now is if people logged off and took their kid fishing.