The 24-Hour News Cycle

Why the constant barrage of headlines adds to the hysteria

The 24 Hour News Cycle

By Sarah F. Hill

“In the old days, on the first day we would report what happened. On the second day, we would tell what the reaction was. On the third day, we would analyze what it means. Now CNN tells you what happened and five minutes later some professor from Fordham University is telling you what it means .... We have to find a way to package it all the first day or we're out of business,” stated Andrew Glass, a senior Washington correspondent for Cox Broadcasting.

Faculty experts

The professors and faculty who comment for news outlets are the Media Relations Department’s problem, right? Not necessarily, the research enterprise must contend with the 24-hour news cycle, as well. The availability of web pages and the temptation to use them to post breaking developments, requires editors to make on-the-spot decisions about whether to report a story or hold for more research … this holds true for academia.

The “CNN Effect” is a phenomenon in political science and media studies that compels policymakers to intervene in political and economic situations by using the mainstream media. The 24-hour news cycle contributes to the CNN Effect by requiring news outlets to compete in order to have the most up-to-the-second news blasted out before others do.

Then there is this society’s obsession with being up-to-date on every little bit of news. It has even got a name: FOMO or “Fear Of Missing Out.” Miriam Liss, psychology professor at the University of Mary Washington, is an expert on the subject.

In her opinion, news overload and FOMO are not exactly the same thing. But news overload causes people to go down a dangerous path. “Where there is news overload, people begin to filter the news to only give them manageable news that they can process. But this can lead to people only seeing news that already corresponds with their political orientation,” Liss stated. “Unless news quality is filtered, quite a bit of fake news is then disseminated.” Speaking of fake news…

“Media Landscape Redefined By 24-Second News Cycle”

Does this headline sound preposterous? What followed was a quote from an expert cited as Jack Shafer, former Slate magazine media critic: “Thinking back, the 24-hour news cycle seems glacially slow and simply incapable of covering our ever-changing world."

What is actually a satiric article in The Onion newspaper out of Madison, Wisconsin, contains a grain of truth. Are the contradictory science articles out there for consumption just a consequence of rushing to publish information first, whether it be thoroughly vetted or not?

Slowing down

The ideal situation is that we put down our phones, take a breath and report well-researched and completely-reviewed articles. Quoted in the The New Yorker, author and computer science professor at Georgetown University Cal Newport said that people need to rethink the way they are exposed to “incomplete, redundant, and often contradictory information,” which leaves us less in-the-know than before we read the articles.

Perhaps a new kind of journalism is needed. And that is precisely what slow journalism is attempting to teach. A class at the University of Oregon and the subject of many mainstream articles, slow journalism or slow news, as one would expect, values quality of information over quantity and promotes longform articles to short social media nuggets.