Although it was clearly no laughing matter, watching the American mainstream media coverage of the Newtown shooting massacre eventually came to feel more like watching a satire than journalism. The sheer number of facts that were wrongly reported on just this one breaking story was jaw-dropping. Everything from the name of the shooter to the employment history of his mother was stated with affirmation as though it were written in stone by God himself. We should expect better from the mainstream media than real life coverage that actually made some media satires seem almost like non-comedies.
When "Network" was released in 1976 it seemed so over the top that it actually went beyond satire into the realm of absurdist humor. Today, watching "Network" almost makes it seem like a quaint underestimation of just how far the business of TV journalism in America could go. Peter Finch's network anchor who cries out that he is mad as hell as won't take it anymore pales in comparison to the everyday madness of people like Bill O'Reilly.
The Truman Show
I can remember criticizing "The Truman Show" myself when it came out on the basis that Americans would never put up with drawing entertainment from watching the daily exploits of a kidnap victim who had no idea he had been kidnapped. I have changed my mind on that one. The commodification of victims and perpetrators into media celebrities that make them seem more like actors playing good guys and bad guys with only the slightest nod to in-depth investigation of the complexities of the situation does not seem like it has much farther to go before we find ourselves in a real life Truman situation.
Ace in the Hole
One of the grandfathers of the media satire is Billy Wilder's cynically funny look at the dichotomy between covering the news and extending its shelf life. You may come across "Ace in the Hole" under the alternate title "The Big Carnival" and each title is apt to describe the story of a down on his luck reporter looking to make it back to the big time by pumping up the drama of a small town story of a man trapped in a cave. Rescue would be easy enough, but why save another's life when you can save your own?