Woman at Boston Marathon scene
A woman in Boston talks on the phone after the Marathon bombings. Reuters

The recent tragic bombing at the Boston Marathon prompted me to watch live television coverage of the saga, at least on the first and second days. I switched among the various networks and cable stations to try to glean some kind of understanding of how and why such an incident could occur on U.S. soil.

As I flipped from station to station, I realized that the only time I watch TV news is when something major happens -- a terrorist attack, a monumental weather disaster or some other catastrophe, manmade or otherwise.

While watching coverage of the carnage in Boston, it again occurred to me why I almost never bother watching TV news reports. Whether it's NBC or ABC or CNN or Fox, they all give a very simplified version of events that seems to trivialize the underlying story.

For example, some of the “coverage” on the Boston race tragedy focused on how New Yorkers are temporarily “relinquishing” their hatred of all things from Boston in order to show ”solidarity” with the victims. They even included references to the sports rivalries between these two cities. Not only does this completely ignore the horror of a likely terrorist attack, it trivializes and even diminishes the dignity of the dead and wounded.

In the second decade of the 21st century, the public has many sources for news and information, including, of course, the Internet. TV, on the other hand, is in steep decline, and one of the reasons has to do with the competition. But the quality and depth of TV news is also to blame.

Commercial television does not really exist to provide the public with information -- it exists solely to generate a profit by providing what is basically an entertainment commodity. Therefore, talking heads on TV are essentially actors, hired for their looks and paid handsomely to perform for us.

During tragedies like the Boston explosions, they are paid to look sad and concerned or simply to appear authoritative. This seems to work for some of the public, who don't really care about the quality of the information they get. But many of us are tired of it and, thankfully, we have the freedom to shut off the TV and learn things for ourselves from unbiased and informed sources.