Why we interrupt so much

Stephen Baker

Peggy Noonan laments that the cable TV culture is rewards serial interrupters. This is true, and I've been puzzling over it since I read her article this morning. Here's what I've come up with:

Conflict: Ever since lions lunched on gladiators, and probably long before, humans have enjoyed conflict.
Choice: If we don't get the conflict we like on news shows, we can turn to a fight on reality TV, or a mother screaming at her daughter on a talk show for dressing like prostitute.
Brands: If networks can turn their news people into battling brands, ratings go up. Look at Lou Dobbs.
Time: If they're not interrupted, windbag politicians will blabber on forever. To get them to say something interesting in the alloted 90 seconds, interruptions are crucial.

So, how can viewers get news without being bored to tears or watching a partisan shout-fest? When the Romans tired of blood, they turned to the circus. If news has to entertain, comedy's a natural. No wonder Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert are so popular.

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