People who are over 40 remember when there were only a couple dozen channels on TV. People over 50 remember when there were only 3. Today, there are an infinite number of outlets that provide information. Someone has to sort through all that stuff, actually investigate things, and tell us if there’s anything to that celebrity dog sex ring your old college roommate won’t shut up about on Facebook. Unfortunately for pretty much all of society, modern journalism is about 2 percent legitimate investigation, and 98 percent nonsense. Here are a few examples.
Trying To Explain “Teen Fads”
Since the news is primarily watched by your mom, it kind of makes sense that an inordinate amount of coverage is spent unraveling the great mysteries of teenagers. The problem is that most journalists are 1) not teenagers and 2) profoundly uncool, so it’s extremely easy for them to end up relaying suspect information given to them by giggling youngsters. That’s exactly what happened in 1992, when The New York Times reported on essential “grunge-speak” phrases such as “swingin’ on the flippity-flop” (hanging out), “cob nobbler” (loser), and “bloated, big bag of bloatation” (drunk).
Ironic that today, “cob nobbler” is the greatest compliment you can give to a person.
Since then, it’s only gotten more embarrassing. In 2014, CNN ran a comprehensive list of acronyms supposedly used by sexually deviant teenagers getting off over their Snapvinegrams — like IWSN (“I want sex now”), CU46 (“see you for sex”), PRON (“porn”), and other depraved terms that no teen alive has ever used unironically.
More recently, a Fox News affiliate ran a chilling live segment attempting to unravel the meaning of various emoji combinations. For instance, skull + arrow + flame means “I hope you die in a fire,” while frog + eyes + flower apparently translates to “I think you’re ugly and also I want to see you naked, let’s get high?” The report sourced these codes to “cyber experts,” which could mean anything from actual tech researchers to an intern who spent an afternoon reading through Urban Dictionary.
While that report didn’t cover the meaning of the poop emoji, Fox News and other stations have previously delved into troubling matters, like how kids are literally huffing poop to get high. As in, filling a bottle with poop and then sniffing it, which is known as “jenkem” … or, according to a dead-serious Fox anchor, “butt hash.” Needless to say, the whole story stank for more than one reason.
Finding Contrived Ways To Feature Scantily Clad Women
Did you know there’s an official bikini day? Well, Fox News remembered, and they made sure to give it thorough coverage.
This special date celebrates the invention of the bikini in 1946, an opportunity that several local and national news outlets used to compare half-naked women from over 70 years ago to half-naked women from today. Likewise, USA Today ran an impressively researched article detailing the most iconic “bikini moments” in pop culture — at last, we won’t look like such fools the next time Grandma asks our opinion on Lindsay Lohan’s classic bikini/alcohol anklet photo over Thanksgiving dinner.
Meanwhile, every article about Carrie Fisher feels compelled to include a photo of her in the gold slave bikini. We won’t even pretend we haven’t fallen on this one, but 1) CNN should really be better than that, and 2) especially on articles about how she just died.
We tried to take a screenshot of the CNN screenshot, but it turned itself into this.
Find your financial segment lacking something? Grit? Appeal? Misogyny? Why not run a story about sexy Hardee’s ads? A water park reopened in New Jersey? Be sure to send a reporter in a swimsuit to try it out, and awkwardly harass her on camera. Terrifying active volcano about to rain death on some locals? Maybe there’s a “bikini-clad, daredevil surfer” nearby!
We’re pretty sure that if a nuclear bomb went off today, cable news would do an in-depth investigative report on the bikini sunbathers just outside of the primary blast.
“Interviewing” Entities That Don’t Exist
Filling 24 hours of programming isn’t easy, so news stations are always thankful when some expert is willing to come into the studio and release hot air out of their mouth for five minutes. But what do you do when everyone’s busy, and your producer is on your ass to fill time? Easy: Just interview a freaking puppet.
That’s literally what happened when Bill O’Reilly, whose The O’Reilly Factor was the most-watched cable news program in the U.S.A., spoke with puppeteer Jeff Dunham’s dummies Walter and Peanut. The “interview” happened just 12 days before the 2012 presidential election, but to be fair, they did cover the subject at length (Walter is a Romney man and Peanut loves Obama, if you were wondering).
And that segment looked perfectly sane compared to a February 2008 edition of Fox Business’ Money For Breakfast program, where co-host Peter Barnes interviewed the green M&M. You know, the one everyone wants to sleep with.
Notably, Barnes voiced his desire to find out if she was “chocolate or peanut” after sharing a glass of milk with her … all while impending global financial crisis information scrolled along the bottom ticker (the stock market crashed six months later). Naturally, Barnes is now the senior Washington correspondent for the Fox Business Network.
But what if pieces of felt and corporate mascots are too dignified for your show? You can always interview corpses. Despite the author of the Declaration of Independence’s death nearly 200 years prior, Fox was able to “channel” Thomas Jefferson through author Stephen McDowell (who wasn’t even wearing the right wig).
“Thanks for your time, President Jefferson. Up next: Did you know it’s Ben Franklin Bikini Day?”
Given the implicit value of his opinions, Zombie Jefferson was allowed to monologue his warnings for the present-day U.S.A. Among these ideas, Jefferson cleverly compared the pirates from the Barbary Wars to “what today would be called Muslim terrorists.” Historians will undoubtedly look to his speech as the greatest ever delivered by a lunatic wearing stockings on a daytime news television couch.
Not content to let his co-workers have all the fun, John Stossel — winner of 17 Emmys for his television journalism — invited Republican congressman and then-2012 Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul to come on his show and debate Barack Obama’s impersonator. Nobama sounded like he wasn’t sure if they hired him to play the president or Kermit the Frog, so he tried to split the difference.
The “debate” gave ample time for Paul to respond to the impersonator’s recitations of popular Obama talking points. But Paul’s points, no matter how well-reasoned, seemed absurd when he went along with the farce. If Mitt Romney’s sizable purple puppet constituency didn’t cost Paul the Republican nomination, this segment surely did.
Prematurely Reporting On Stories
One of the main advantages of modern-day news is our ability to learn about stories as soon as they happen. One of the main disadvantages is … our ability to learn about stories as soon as they happen. New York Post is particularly notorious with this sort of thing, reporting that 12 people died in the Boston Marathon bombing (it was five), naming a Saudi student as a suspect (he wasn’t), and putting these two people on a cover, because Reddit said they might be the bombers (they weren’t). In their defense, the Post is sometimes very diligent in updating their stories when new information arises.
For example, when they learned the San Bernardino shooters were of a specific religion, they felt this warranted a whole new front-page headline:
Even other, more respectable Posts are prone to these types of mistakes. When there was a terror attack in Norway in 2011, a Washington Post contributor quickly blamed it on “jihadists” and put together a 700-word article on how this proves we should continue the War on Terror. As it turned out, the terrorist was whiter than a Gap Outlet sale.
From Nancy Grace concluding that the Duke Lacrosse Case students should forfeit their legal rights to Donald Trump calling for the execution of the Central Park Five, there’s a long tradition of media figures jumping to conclusions about people who turn out to be innocent (man, can you imagine if hotheads like that had any real power?).
When French politician Dominique Strauss-Kahn was accused of rape, the media immediately went berserk. The French media had had dubbed him “the Great Seducer,” which, to be fair, is a pretty awesome title. The accuser later admitted she lied and the case was settled out of court without an admission of guilt, but Strauss-Kahn probably isn’t making Prime Minister anytime soon.
Now contrast this with how the media treats their own.
Accusations against Bill Cosby were underreported — or outright ignored — for years and years. BBC host Jimmy Savile’s horrifying child molestation was an open secret for decades. But to be fair, we’re 90 percent sure he wasn’t Muslim or a lacrosse player, so how could anyone possibly have known?
Confusing Video Games With Real Life
We live in a unique moment in history — that sweet spot when video games are so realistic and reality is so ridiculous that it’s hard for paid professionals to tell the difference between the two. For instance, CNN recently ran a story on Russian hackers that purported to show us what a cyber-attack looks like.
Notice The Matrix-esque gibberish in the background? Sore-thumbed viewers instantly recognized those images, because they’d stared at that exact same screen for hours — it belongs to a word puzzle minigame from Fallout 4. Come on, we know Russia has its problems, but it’s not a post-apocalyptic wasteland quite yet. The footage has nothing to do with actual hacking, unless CNN acquired the game through less than legal means.
Similarly, in an effort to better explain the intricacies of an upcoming SpaceX mission, CBC News helpfully provided a computer simulation of a rocket landing, which was actually footage from a cartoony video game called Kerbal Space Program that they ripped from YouTube. The game’s physics are considered impressive, but somehow we doubt astronauts would trust equations calculated by off-brand Minions.
Not to be outdone, Russia Today aired a report on child soldiers in South Sudan that, instead of featuring an actual photo, used a screenshot from Metal Gear Solid V. You know, as if the internet wouldn’t remember a game that sold well over six million copies.
But hey, at least these stations nailed the timeframe within a couple hundred years … unlike Danish television program TV2, which illustrated a report on modern-day Syria with a screenshot of 12th-century Damascus from Assassin’s Creed. To be fair, the Assassin’s Creed games are how we learned about Ben Franklin being a horndog, so it’s not like they’re entirely devoid of historical value.