Thursday, March 03, 2011

All the News That's Fit to Print?

California man drives 35 miles,
at speeds up to 100 mph, with
his wife on hood of his minivan.

As you may know by now I have trouble dealing with what is supposed to be “news.” When I was a boy, even a young man for that matter, there were usually fairly brief news announcements on the radio, and there was something called Movietone News (or something like that) that was featured just before the movie we were about to watch. These glimpses of the news were relatively brief, but they were usually real news. By real I mean something worth knowing about, something relatively important, something that was actually worth watching or hearing. There seems to be a new definition of news today, apparently news is considered to be anything that will take up a significant amount of time.

If you try to understand what “news” is supposed to mean you will find that basically news can be anything. It is variously defined as “something that is newsworthy,” or something that appears in a newspaper, or an event of the day, something not previously told, an announcement of a recent event, or whatever. In other words it is whatever the MSM wants it to be. And above all they want it to be time-consuming. This is why we get regular notices of the latest doings of “the beautiful people” like Charlie Sheen, Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, and what’s-her-name who seems to be in and out of treatment or jail so frequently it is impossible to keep up with. Anyway, I do not consider their doings to be news, at least news that has any redeeming value. Somehow there ought to be different categories of news, news that is really news, and news that is just nonsense news. There should be conscientious editors who decide what is worth printing or broadcasting and what is not. Traditionally there have been editors, at least of magazines and books who made such decisions and at least occasionally spared us from nonsense, lies, trivia, or things better left ignored. As for me I would be delighted to never hear of Charlie Sheen, Lindsay Lohan, and others of that ilk again.

At perhaps a slightly higher level (whatever that might mean) there is the problem of people like Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin and other fellow travelers, people who have learned how to make a living by pretending to run for office even if they have no intention of doing so. Gingrich is the best and most recent example of this kind of scam. He periodically threatens to run for President, sets up a fund raising site, accumulates a lot of money, and then does not run as he knows full well it would be a waste of time. The media loves him and inflicts his pompous, hypocritical bullshit on us at every opportunity. If he did not pretend to be running for President no one would pay any attention to him. Sarah Palin is almost as skillful as Gingrich, perhaps even better than he is, at pretending to run for President. They both know they have no chance of ever becoming President, but pretending to run has become a profession for them. Another case in point is Christine O’Donnell who, never actually having a job, has made a career of running for the Senate, for which she is totally unqualified, but she manages to pay her rent. The media must certainly be aware of these fakes but, hey, if they say they’re news, they’re news.

There are also those who, having little or no talent, have learned they can be news by saying outrageous things, we call them “shock jocks.” Some of them have their own shows where they just utter one ridiculous thing after another, others, like Ann Coulter, make a living by appearing on television to say something so nasty, bitchy, absurd, or mean they guarantee further appearances. I don’t know if we can consider Rush Limbaugh or Bill O’Reilly in this category but they are close to it. Of course Glenn Beck is the master, having managed to turn his absurd lunacy into an extremely lucrative “news” business. These people do little other than spew hate and falsehoods on a regular basis and seem to find large audiences that apparently are too stupid to know the difference between fact and fantasy.

Still another thing that irritates me about news is the fact that what might be news of a kind somewhere is not really news worth bothering about everywhere. Car chases in L.A. come immediately to mind. If some drunk, drug addict , or criminal wants to try to run away from the police by driving 100 miles an hour down the freeway, that might actually be news in L.A., but why should it be news elsewhere in the U.S. Like, who cares what lunatic drivers do in L.A. when there are similar loonies everywhere? House fires, too, do not seem to me to be nationwide news. However horrible it is that someone burns to death in their home I cannot see why that is national news. House fires occur regularly in many places, why do some make it to national news while most others do not? Why do some murders become national stories while hundreds of others are never heard about? Again, you might think an editor would be more selective in what was to be presented as news, but when you have so much time to fill, and so little real news to go around you can’t be too choosy. “A slow news day” is a more or less recent phenomenon.

Some of you might have seen me report this experience previously. If so, forgive me for being repetitive. I once spent several months living on the Big Island of Hawaii. There was a very small local news station that came on early every morning. The usual news had to do with reports about how Mrs. Wu’s dog had killed Mrs. Kim’s chickens, or how Mr. Wang’s car had broken down on the highway, and similar things of that level of local importance. But one morning I was delighted to hear the announcer admit, “Well, there’s no news today.” That’s what I call real news! I wish there were more honest announcers.

The one function TV news performs very well is that when there is no news we give it to you with the same emphasis as if there were.
David Brinkley

There is evidence humans began hunting for honey 10,000 years ago.

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