In his book, "The Assault On Reason," Al Gore discusses how television news is manipulated by the networks and the corporations that own them. Here's the excerpt:
"These conglomerates are apparently sometimes tempted to bend their news-programming choices to support the achievement of commercial objectives. The news divisions- which used to be seen as serving a public interest and were subsidized by the rest of the network- are now seen as profit centers designed to generate revenue and, sometimes, to advance the larger agenda of the corporation that owns them.
They have fewer reporters, fewer stories, smaller budgets, less travel, fewer bureaus, less independent judgment, more vulnerability to influence by management, and more dependence on government sources and canned public relations handouts.
The coverage of political campaigns, for example, focuses on the 'horse race' and little else. And the well known axiom that guides most local television news is 'If it bleeds, it leads.' (To which some disheartened journalists add, 'If it thinks, it stinks.')
For these and other reasons, the U.S. press was recently found the 53rd freest press in the world. NBC, to take only one prominent example, is slashing its news division in order to boost profits: It is cutting $750 million from its budget, a considerable amount from its news division.
This tragedy is compounded by the irony that this generation of journalists is the best-trained and most highly skilled in the history of their profession. But they are often not allowed to do the job that they have been trained to do. As Dan Rather put it, television news has been 'dumbed down and tarted up.'
The purpose of television news now seems primarily to be to 'glue eyeballs to the screen' in order to build ratings and sell advertising. This was the point made by Jon Stewart, the brilliant host of The Daily Show With Jon Stewart, when he visited CNN's Crossfire: There should be a distinction between news and entertainment. It really matters. The subjugation of news by entertainment seriously harms our democracy: It leads to dysfunctional journalism that fails to inform the people. And when people are not informed, they cannot hold government accountable when it is incompetent, corrupt, or both." From, "The Assault On Reason" By: Al Gore