Thursday, February 11, 2010

What Are You Watching

If you haven;t found something strange during the day, it hasn't been much of a day.

John Wheeler
It isn't difficult to find strange things, things that are unusual, different or just plain odd. I find them everyday. Sometimes in a book, sometimes in my head and quite often just by looking around and observing the world in action. Strangely, strange things are sometimes things that people are simply used to and don't ask questions about.

One of the strangest of all things to me, and something that allows me a good shaking of my head in disbelief, is the news coverage in this country.

When I was a lad you got your news from newspapers. TV news was not what it is today. It was usually one man sitting at a table with no fancy graphics behind him, reading from a sheet of news copy and looking into a stationary camera. (How many remember John Cameron Swaze and the News, brought to you by Camel cigarettes?)

There were 7 daily newspapers in New York City: The Times, The Herald Tribune, The Journal American, The World Telegram and Sun, The Post, The Daily News and The Daily Mirror. When I was in high school I used to buy all 7 of them, they weren't very expensive. In all of them the important news story of the day was right on the front page or, in the case of the tabloids, it was right inside the front cover.

All those papers were earnest, responsible newspapers and their journalism was exciting in those days. One paper, The Journal American, was almost completely responsible for catching a terrorist of the 40's and 50"s known as The Mad Bomber. That's a fascinating story which I will write about one day.

One of the advantages of reading from all those papers was that, not only could one see the accuracy of the reporting by comparison (and it was very accurate, across the lot) but one could also clearly see the seven different editorial points of view, from the most liberal to the most conservative. It was the news and the excellent reporting of it that sold newspapers. And it sure helped an impressionable youth to start thinking clearly about the events of the world around him.

Now everything is strange. We get out news from TV "journalists," a group of folks who look good an camera, who are over paid and who, for the most part, are lacking in life's real experiences. (As I write this I'm reminded of the network newscaster who referred to an Arab running for his life during the bombing of Baghdad as being in his "bathrobe." One wonders if that man had every seen an Arab before in his life.)

We don't buy the TV news the way we used to buy newspapers. Business buys TV news, Big Business. We get very little news because of the advertising that takes up time. A newspaper can always increase the number of it's pages, but a TV station can't add more time.

One should not overlook the fact that sponsorship by big business is going to affect editorial policy. It's inevitable. Every broadcast news organization has a political/social point of view. Fox News spends so much energy telling us that they are not biased, that they obviously are. If they weren't they wouldn't be talking about it. AccuWeather is anything but accurate and Eye On The News is frequently not on the news.

Worst of all is the inability to make comparisons, as I did with the 7 daily papers, and the gullibility of the American TV viewer. We take what we are given and consider it real and important. We don't ask questions, try to hold a TV station accountable for what it chooses to show and don't realize that so much of it is "spam."

What was the big news story last Monday, two days ago? Was it about how many bodies were recovered in Haiti, how many people are living there under blankets and burlap bags, how many buildings were destroyed, how many careers, how many families, how many desperately injured there are and what is being done for them, who is there helping to save the people and rebuild the country and what are they doing? Was that the major news on Monday?

No. It was about a football game. Now isn't that strange?

(This is not a contest.)

Given the resources and opportunity, what one thing do you want to do in 2010 that you've never done before.

You have all Winter to answer. Answers will be posted on the first day of Spring.
20 responses so far.

DB - The Vagabond

1 comment:

Bucko (a.k.a., Ken) said...

Our constant news stream has certainly changed how we view and react to things, in a negative way. True news and journalism has been lost to the sound bite.