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The official student news site of Coppell High School

Coppell Student Media

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October 26, 2023

News media defaults to scare mongering in exchange for ratings

By Ben Cowlishaw
Staff Writer

Scaremongering is no longer just up to lobbyists and interest groups in Washington; today’s mainstream media has defaulted to alarmist tactics in exchange for ratings.

It is no secret and there has been no shortage of coverage on the affects of instant social media, namely Twitter, on the news cycle. Newspapers across the country have folded, shrunk and completely redrawn their business plan, and finally news networks have begun to feel the hit.

It has already been a while since you could flip on a news network and actually see an anchor at a desk reviewing the nation’s top stories – that’s been replaced with emotional, audacious and animated “pundits” that center entire hours of television around just a handful of hot-button issues.

While I find this to be incredibly entertaining, it is clearly still not enough to bring in the viewership these networks are so thirsty for. Instead, as if in a trust, all news networks sensationalize and exaggerate the same stories until they are on everybody’s lips.

At the end of 2012, the expiration of numerous laws was predicted to cause a mild recession, while in the long term was expected to increase the American labor force and decrease the national deficit. To most Americans, this would come and go without interest as just one of a seemingly endless number of opportunities for Congress to adjust and pass a budget, taxes and spending cuts.

But this could not go nearly so easy. Not when this situation was an untapped gold mine of ratings sitting over a bubbling pot of pointless debate and pseudo-terror. All it needed was an insanely inflated metaphor for certain death: the Fiscal Cliff.

In a matter of days, everyone was talking about the impending cliff America was doomed to fall over. Fox News went as far as to have a “Countdown to the Fiscal Cliff” clock on all of its broadcasts, as if it was a literal time bomb that would spell the end of the economy the second it struck zero.

Citizens fled to supermarkets to hoard supplies, spending dropped and everyone prepared for another recession they really had no reason to expect or idea of why it would occur. More fingers were pointed than there are people to blame at who is holding the economy “hostage,” and the certain gloom and doom it would cause.

Jan. 1 of the New Year, President Barack Obama signed the American Taxpayer Relief Act. Fiscal Cliff avoided. What was never discussed it was this really an example of our government finally working hard to prevent a crisis, or was it a glorified crisis to begin with?

It didn’t matter, because the next day, America was being invaded. Not by aliens or Russians, but microscopic viruses that seem to – and actually do – come every single year. The flu. But this flu season couldn’t slip by without endless coverage.

How much worse is this flu season than last? Will we run out of flu vaccines? Can our children safely go to school without a mask and pocket size bottle of Purell?

It is the flu, people. It comes every year, sometimes it’s bad, sometimes it’s mild. Every other year, it seems to be a new one from some country nobody can find on a map, which seems to make it even more terrifying. We were warned of the Swine Flu, Avian Flu, and every other animal-based adjective form of flu imaginable, and every year, a handful of people are home sick from my school for a few days.

Yes, the flu can be very dangerous and takes many lives every year, meaning education on health and safety to avoid it is necessary. But to portray it every year as the second coming of the Plague is irresponsible, which seems to be the only way news is portrayed nowadays.

News networks have recently found themselves in a gold rush on irrational fears of Americans, and there are no signs of our gullibility to sensationalist news media slowing down. As long as we keep watching, there will always be someone or something working to destroy America. At least at 6 p.m.

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