While America burns, and fear and unrest grip the nation, what does our TV news media do?

It throws fuel on a fire that does not need any, for the sake of ratings and money.

They do not report. They do not search for and then deliver facts. They are not interested in reality.

Their purpose is to stir up the factions that follow them. Their aim is to do all they can to ensure that the images of chaos and tumult that they are using now to attract and retain viewership remain plentiful for as long as possible.

In times of turmoil, Americans turn to TV news in greater numbers. Ratings are up, and the natural instinct of TV news is to try and keep them there.

For them, the sound and fury of the past week’s demonstrations are like discovering a gold mine. People who discover gold do not give it up if they can help it. On the contrary, they seek to have it continue to produce gold on their behalf.

Instead of casting a much wider net to perhaps report on how other groups of Americans — the millions not participating in the protest marches, for example — feel about the state of our world, the TV newspeople and their cameras gravitate naturally to the scenes of chaos.

Then, rather than give it to us straight, these newspeople take sides. Armies establish battle lines in opposition to each other, not journalists — or at least that is how it used to work.

Since when did it become OK for news organizations to editorialize throughout their broadcasts, in the case of TV, or in their news pages, as in newspapers and on news web pages?

So now, TV news not only emphasizes our problems and our divisions, it chooses to add to them by presenting hours and hours of heated conversations about them. At times like these, these conversations are never-ending, and it should go without saying that they solve nothing.

Chaos, as seen in the protest images, and noise, as reflected in those same images and in the TV news discussions, make for sights and sounds that are more arresting than images that contain neither.

Scenes in which Americans are going about their lives in settings that are not tumultuous are not nearly as useful to our visual media.

Call this TV Blog a rant if you must, but it results from a search for facts, calm, courage and hope in our TV news that has proven to be fruitless.

The three news channels represented by the three photos above — MSNBC (Rachel Maddow), CNN (Anderson Cooper) and Fox News Channel (Laura Ingraham) — are far from the only culprits here, but they are certainly in the forefront in their constant efforts to fan flames rather than extinguish them.

And who are they to tell anyone else how they should feel on issues of importance to us all? They are people not too different from the rest of us, only they have these national platforms.

The settings from which they deliver their screeds and commentaries — the fake “desks” they sit behind in their well-lit studios — tend to give them an aura of authority.

But when it comes to their knowledge, judgments or instincts, they are just people with opinions, just like the rest of us.

Speaking for myself, I do not wish to get my news from people who are just like the rest of us. I would prefer people who understand that news is not commentary, and journalists are not supposed to position themselves as partisan soldiers in an opinion war.

Oh, well. That ship, like so many others before it, has sailed.

Adam Buckman has written about TV for 36 years.

Recommended for you