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How to Watch TV News

3.74  ·  Rating details ·  516 ratings  ·  71 reviews
An important guide to understanding what you're getting--and not getting--from TV news. Postman and Powers warn that anyone who relies exclusively on TV for a knowledge of the world is making a serious mistake and suggest ways to intelligently evaluate TV news shows. ...more
Paperback, 178 pages
Published December 2nd 2005 by Penguin Group (first published December 12th 1991)
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Dec 14, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: social-theory, media
This was short and to the point (well, mostly to the point). It is a bit dated, so you can skip most of the figures, but then figures like how much an ad cost to produce in 1990 go in one ear and out the other anyway.

I might use some of the ideas in this book when I’m teaching next year. This book doesn’t say, Don’t watch TV news – but it does say you should cut your TV news watching by a third and that watching TV news tends to make you depressed and fearful.

The best of this book, though, is
Jul 02, 2018 rated it really liked it

Well, that was easy. From television insider Steve Powers and technological critic Neil Postman comes this slim book, How To Watch Television News, which explains how televised news is produced and scrutinizes the platform's ability to deliver seriously useful information. Although this is not a takedown of television news -- at the end they merely encouraged readers to reduce their TV news consumption by a third -- it doesn't foster trust in the medium. Powers' insight reveals an industry
The Brain in the Jar
Neil Postman, as a philosopher, is deceptively simple. His writing is so easy that by this point it took me seconds to read a page. McLuhan’s name also appear, so it’s obvious he’s not providing new paradigms of thought. He continues McLuhan’s critical examination of technology, not taking it for granted by asking what it means. If the medium is the message, then this is book expands on news as a medium.

Before I talk about this book, I must make the theory clear. When McLuhan uses it, he means a
Ratnakar Sadasyula
Aug 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
While this book is about American TV News, you can as well apply the same to Indian News Channels. Substitute NBC, CNN, Fox News with NDTV, CNN-IBN, Times Now and their anchors with Barkha Dutt, Rajdeep Sardesai, Sagarika Ghose and co, it's pretty much the same. The figures might be outdated, but the point is driven home brilliantly. TV News is of the Idiots, by the Idiots and for the Idiots. The fact is TV News is not meant for intelligent analysis, it is basically the Masala News, where photog ...more
'Izzat Radzi
The discourse is not just on tv news, it actually also covers child education, televised court trial (which profit the tv companies), and a few chapters of technical stuff of the production of Tv News, perhaps because of the collaboration with Steve Powers, who is in the industry. And unfortunately, because of that, I didn't quite enjoyed his part, because I find when Postman wrote on something, he wrote in in a totally different way, or should better put in, philosophical way.
They did suggest
May 18, 2020 rated it liked it
Even in these days of website editions of tv news there is much that still applies. Some of it is even more relevant as our clips and soundbytes get shorter. The monetary factors that contribute to broadcaster and marketing choices have, of course, inflated quite a lot.

If, like me, you've already read Postman's _Amusing Ourselves to Death_ and Belloc's _The Free Press_, very little here will surprise you. It's more like an update on those which is now slightly (but not entirely!) dated.

If you
Nov 02, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
The first section of the book gets old after a bit--- yes, after a couple of chapters, we get it. The news is a glitzed up, doctored show. But the next bit, that sounds more like Postman, is more valuable. What do we do, now that we know about it? He offers genuine advice based on previous research: The Disappearance of Childhood, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business, The End of Education: Redefining the Value of School. One of the things I like about Postman ...more
Aug 13, 2009 rated it liked it
This is a quick read, and a nice overview of the structure of entertainment news programs and factors that influence the content. Postman however, seems to suffer from the same problem as many other well-educated people accustomed to writing for academic journals. In crossing over to popular writing, the effort to use clear, concise, and simple language makes the tone feel as though the author is talking down to the reader, as if s/he is not yet capable of critical thought. Additionally, in what ...more
Rebecca Newman
Jan 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
Great book. The figures are a bit dated, it having been published 20 years ago and all, but extremely valuable anyway. Perhaps at the time of publication, the issue of government controlled and worldview 'propaganda' in news and television were not quite as pernicious but the expounding on such was the only thing, in my opinion, this book lacked.

An eye-opening read for anyone who watches the TV news.

A Favorite Quote:

"What people don't know can kill them (to borrow from Fred Friendly, formerly o
Oct 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
While I wouldn't say this book is profound, it does contain valuable insight that will change the way you view your network and cable news programs. The most interesting question posed in the book is "what is news?". I think a lot of people are aware of the type-casting of news personalities and the bias in reporting as well as the unnecessary glamour in news reporting but I'm afraid most of us forget to even ponder what should be considered news and are we in danger of "information glut" that t ...more
Feb 24, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not quite what I was expecting, but not bad at all. This book dissects the work that goes into cobbling together a television news program - from the way that news is gathered to the way that the shows are produced. The actual discussion of the problems with television news programs are confined to the latter chapters, but I can understand the reasoning for this for by the time you get to them you understand what goes into the shows a bit better. Would make an excellent textbook, but requires su ...more
Sep 27, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: media-philes
Here's the thing. This book is outdated. You're not going to glean much from this that you didn't already know. And Postman, at times, sacrifices insight for glibness. But from a historical point of view (this book was published in the early 1990s), he's spot on--year's before these ideas became a mainstream way of thinking about TV news. It's a must-read for those interested in the effects of TV news on public & community rhetoric. ...more
Elizabeth Theiss
Nov 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
Postman's media ecology perspective on TV news caused me to give up TV news almost entirely, though I confess that I still love the PBS News Hour. The limitations of the medium (time constraints, necessity of profits, need for drama and human interest) are such that it just isn't very useful for understanding the world. Postman and Powers explain why with zest and plenty of examples. Though brief and entertaining, this book is brilliant. ...more
Alicia Fox
Feb 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
This book tended to overstate its points, but they're good points. It made me rethink the way I watch TV news. That is, I know it's all mindless entertainment--celebrity gossip, pundits, sound bites, etc. But I'd never thought about how watching the news makes one feel informed without necessarily being informed. "We know of many things (everything is revealed) but about very little (nothing is known)." ...more
Jan 16, 2009 rated it really liked it
Neil Postman is absolutely brilliant most of the time, though this is certainly not my favorite book by him. This one is an insightful analysis of what exactly "the news" is and how it is created, marketed, and delivered. You may think you already know the answer, but this book forces you to think about this in a serious way. Definitely worth reading, if only once. ...more
Nothing in here will be new to a reasonably well-educated person, or a consumer of a variety of news sources. It probably seemed fresher when the first edition came out, in 1992. It might serve well as a text for a high school media class.

If you want to learn about how bad media destroys democracy, read every day.
A quick read with valid core concepts everyone should know. Although some data is dated as a lot of other people point out in their reviews, after reading this you will research on your own to validate. A must read for anyone with a television set or who watches news or commercials via other mediums.
Jul 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
Really outdated, but still very informative. I wonder what the authors of this book think now! This was before the rise of Fox "News," so things now are far, far worse than they were when they first saw the need for a book like this. It was very easy to read - definitely recommended to all citizens of our democracy. It makes you think in different ways about the information you're being fed. ...more
Feb 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
Nearly 20 years old it stands the test of time well as much of how news is produced remains the same although done by fewer people and new technologies.
well worth the time to read. some examples are starting to become dated but the reasoning and the essential points are timeless. highly recommended.
Jeffrey Bumiller
Great! Anyone who still believes that TV news is unbiased or (in some cases) even news at all, will have those illusions shattered with this book. First published in 1992 and still holds up.
Vel Veeter
Nov 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
It's hard to fault this book for anything other than being an artifact of an era. This is a book that looks into the television news industry and acts as a kind of guide for conscientious viewers to prepare themselves for how shallow, how carefully edited, how myopic, how financially controlled, and how narrow tv news is, and because of its pervasiveness and repetitiveness, how dangerous it could be.

So the book breaks down news into its various components and concerns, and provides some practica
Aug 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A longtime critic of American news media and its consumers, Neil Postman and television journalist Steve Powers wrote "How to Watch TV News" in 1992. By the time of his death some ten years later (2003), Postman must have recognized that the internet was making the situation even worse than he described in this book. Now, a quarter of a century later, his assessments of the future of news are as remarkable as the fact that this book and his advice remain relevant and even invaluable today.
The au
Aug 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Neil Postman’s writing is perhaps the most prescient and relevant wisdom I have encountered on our current cultural crises as it pertains to the access to and literacy with which we process news media. Written in 1992, Postman and Powers wrote about the alarming rise of entertainment and for-profit news, that doesn’t inform, that gives the illusions of a full story, that leaves the citizen falsely confident in their knowledge of local and global events, and slanted toward a feeling the world is ...more
Jan 10, 2021 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I think that if I had read this back in 2007 (or whatever year it came out) I may have had more interest. I can imagine how over a decade later that the production of a news story has become even more frenzied for the creators to produce than what was identified in this book. Most of the revelations in this book have become more blatantly obvious to the viewers. I think that news quality has slipped so much and the extreme sensationalism is so evident that even those facts addressed in this book ...more
Aaron Ambrose
I read a few of Neil Postman's books in the 90's and learned a lot from him - he's one of a handful of authors who made a huge, lasting impact on my worldview. This book feels very much like it was originally published in 1992, and even with a 2007 refresh it's hopelessly outdated now. Many of these observations can be applied to newer media, but at this point we're well aware of all the trickery involved in media hookery and hucksterism - and most of us apparently accept that just fine. With ea ...more
David Wreesman
Jul 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Postman and Powers do a good job at both informing--this is how TV news works--and challenging--you probably haven't spent much time thinking about how TV news works, but since we're on the subject, let's talk about the implications. A fair amount of the book is understandably dated, but there were also some remarkably accurate predictions. It made me wish that Postman was still alive. I think it would be accurate to say that media shifts have only increased in their rapidity and their influence ...more
Occasionally quite funny! Particularly after reading the last chapter, I cannot help but wonder whether the proliferation and democratisation of information is a wholly good thing. The older I get, the more I long for the buffer of editors and publishers between the creators of content and the public; or, as relates to this book, the 'gatekeepers' of news. ...more
Feb 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A brilliant analysis of what TV news does to the watcher. It is very easy to move many, if not most, of Postman's points into the internet era.
A must-read for anyone who feels they are being manipulated by media, and even more of a must-read for those who don't.
Apr 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
“Indeed, the whole problem with news on television comes down to this: all the words uttered in an hour of news coverage could be printed on one page of a newspaper. And the world cannot be understood in one page.”
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Neil Postman, an important American educator, media theorist and cultural critic was probably best known for his popular 1985 book, Amusing Ourselves to Death. For more than four decades he was associated with New York University, where he created and led the Media Ecology program.

He is the author of more than thirty significant books on education, media criticism, and cultural change including Te

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“Many decisions about the form and content of news programs are made on the basis of information about the viewer, the purpose of which is to keep the viewers watching so that they will be exposed to the commercials” 2 likes
“What’s wrong with turning back the clock if the clock is wrong? We need not be slaves to our technologies” 1 likes
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