Thu 29 Mar, 2007 12:10 pm
Cross-posted from usenet.
Desperately Seeking News
By Stephen Pizzo
Created Mar 28 2007 - 10:01am
I'm developing a bad case of TV-remote carpel tunnel just trying to get my minimum daily requirement of hard news. Every evening at 4 pm I settle in front of my TV set to begin tanking up on the day's happenings in the world and nation. I want to know what's happening in Washington, Iraq, Afghanistan and whether nuclear-armed Pakistan has fallen yet into al Qaida's hands.
I also want to know if, three years from now when I show up at the Social
Security pay window, if it'll still be handing out cash - or just food
stamps. I want to know if the world's governments - especially my own - are ready to do more than talk about global warming, or if they are going to let my great grandkids fry.
I figure keeping abreast of such weighty issues is the least a citizen
should do. So I do my best to keep up.
But it's getting harder to accomplish because more and more CNN, MSNBC, FOX and the old non-cable news networks apparently suffer from severe cases of attention deficit disorder. All it takes for the world's pressing news to get knocked off the air is an every day distraction, like the Boy Scout that wandered off into the woods  an got himself lost. From the moment that piece of non-news broke it was wall to wall lost Boy Scout on every channel for three days. Throw a dog into the story - and they did -- and the story was good for another two days.)
From time to time real news breaks through the human interest pablum. For less than minute hard news would appear as a breathless announcer races through a story about fresh riots in Pakistan  and how they might mark the beginning of the end for Pakistan's president/general, Musharraf.
Then the announcer would brighten, as though to say, "Okay now that that
depressing crap is out of the way..." and announce "Now back to MSNBC's
special investigation, Who Is Her Daddy? The mystery of Anna Nicole's baby."
So I click from channel to channel with reduced expectations. These days my goal is to hit one of those 30-second "News Breaks," on the so-called
24-news channels. For thirty seconds an announcer reads headlines from the real world before they switch back soup opera of life dejour.
You would think that the absurdity of it would dawn on network news editors.
Memo to News Network Editors: When you running something 24-hours a day, and have to carve out something you have named a "News Break" might it just mean you are no longer covering the news. Duh!
Don't get me wrong. I'm not insensitive to the every-day suffering of my
fellow humans. But I already know that, on any given day, people lose their jobs, homes burn down, cars crash, small planes crash, entertainers get drunk and misbehave - hell, some even shave their heads. But none of those incidents has any effect on my life, or likely ever will.
A zillion compelling human dramas unfold every day that I don't know about. But just because I don't know about them does not make them news.
So why are such stories increasingly displacing hard news on networks that bill themselves as "news" channels? Sure, if a kid in Hog Haven, Idaho goes missing on a camping trip, that's story... but it's a story for the folks of Hog Haven and environs, not for CNN.
When I sit down to consume News here's the kind of stuff I want to learn
1) Which world leaders are acting in ways that, if it gets out of hand,
could get me, any member of my immediate family or friends killed?
2) How's the nation's checking account holding up? Are we broke yet? How
much interest are the Chinese charging us on our national VISA card?
3) I'm just three years from qualifying for Medicare. So who's working on
making sure it's not broke just when I and 30 million other whining Baby
Boomers show up to its door demanding someone fix our failing hips, knees and eyeballs?
4) Who in Washington is lying to us - this time? And is anyone going to do
anything about it -- this time?
5) Have Democrats finally gotten their collective heads out of their
6) Have Republicans finally worn out their welcome with Red State voters, or do they suffer a learning disability?
That's the kind of news I look for when I tune in CNN or MSNBC. But too
often these days that's not what I get. Instead increasingly what I get is a
bunch of human interest crapola and/or reports on the latest antics of some over-paid, under-educated entertainment/sports celebrity.
That's not News. Not, not, not!
Telling the difference between News and Not News.
1) Ask yourself this question; What makes the story you want to run news --
other than the fact it's just happening? If you can't answer that question
without giving yourself a stroke, don't run the story. Lots of stuff happens
every day that did not happen the day before. But "new," does not
automatically equal "news."
2) How many people's lives could be affected by it? If the number you come up with is less than the population of a mid-sized American city, forget about it. It's local news.
3) Is it something contagious? Yes? Okay, so far, so good, but don't stop
there. Now ask yourself, how many people have died from it? If the answer is not at least in the low thousands AND it's heading our way - it's not news - at least not yet. Assign someone in the newsroom to keep and eye on the bug and, if it becomes a genuine threat to mankind as a whole, do let the rest of us know.
4) When a public figure of lesser stature than, say, the President, Vice
President or Pope dies, especially of unnatural causes, it's newsworthy -
but just barely. Give it 30 seconds of airtime to announce the death and any updates that may develop. But please, spare us the retrospectives that drag us through his/her childhood, interviewing their 4th grade English teacher, etc. If I care enough to care about all that I can look it up on Wikipedia.
5) Who may or may not have inseminated some bimbo is not News. NOT NEWS!
(Write that down.)
6) A Boy Scout lost in the woods is NOT automatically national news. An
exception would be if he was a gay scout who got lost while running for
his life from a lynch mob of fellow scouts. That would make it news.
7) A 14-year old boy trapped under a slab of cement is not news, unless
he turns out to be John Gotti's nephew and was working as an FBI informant at the time of the "accident."
8) Baby animals are cute, but they are not news. Anyone that wants to see
pictures of baby animals can do so any time at the zoo. They don't need CNN for their baby animal fix.
9) Nothing about sports or sports figures is news. That why sports was given its own section in newspapers, to make sure no one is misled into thinking it's important. Now, if Barry Bonds' steroid use were to drive him to climb at top San Francisco's TransAmerica pyramid, and refuse to come down, that would be News.
10) Heart-warming stories are not automatically news. I know people like to tell pollsters that the news is all bad and that editors should run more
"good news" stories. Trust me, they don't really mean it. First of all, if
any good news happens they want it to happen to them. The last thing they want is to be sitting in their tattered 15-year old recliner watching some other guy gushing about his good fortune on CNN. Besides, if folks want feel-good and sappy sagas there's already a place for them where they can get a belly full. It's called Oprah.
11) Finally, who has entered or left rehab, is NOT news - (unless of course
his initials are GWB.)
Knowing News When You See It: A Cheat Sheet
1) Any national or international happenings that, unless dealt with wisely,
could get a lot of people killed.
2) Any developments involving the economy or business that could blow a hole in wallets of average Americans.
3) Any actions by our national elected officials that, if he were still
alive, would cause Thomas Jefferson to exclaim, "Who the hell are these
people, and why aren't they in jail?"
4) Any environmental developments that, unless dealt with quickly and
wisely, may result in mass extinctions - possibly including you-know-who.
Now, is that so complicated? I don't think so.
But look, Britney's out of rehab and some time next week we will learn whose the real father of the dead bimbo's daughter - the bimbo who died from a drug overdose just five months after her son died of a drug overdose.
What could be more important than to keep Americans abreast of the lives and travails of such an admirable collection of characters? Will the little
girl's real father end up being the bimbo's mega-sleazy lawyer? Or will it
be her sleazy peroxide frosted blond Hollywood boy-toy?
We are sentenced to learn the truth, whether we want to or not.
So there's that. Then there's the great unknown - the non-news incident(s)
that could happen at any moment, driving hard news once again to 30-second News Break status. Who knows, a panda could die, a Girl Scout could get lost in the giant Mall of The Americas, or a dog could fall down a well.
Maybe I should just ditch the remote, slip on one of those
wife-beater tee shirts, nuzzle up to a case of Budweiser and just go with
the flow. I could trade the travails of Tony Blair for those of Britney,
Bolton for Bonds. And the hell with Condi, dish me up some fresh dirt on
Nicole. And why search in vain for news of Dick Cheney's latest crimes
against humanity (and common sense) when I could just lay among nacho crumbs as Anderson Cooper croons me into a trance as he interviews American Idol's Simon Cowell - a person who got rich and famous by being demeaning and just plain mean.
News will only interfere with finding out what Bratney's latest hairstyle or who the father of Morton Salt is...
Don't be dissin Morton Salt, mister. :wink:
Read. Start with The Economist.
Read. Start with The Economist.
Vocalise. Start with Fox noos and CNN.
here's the news.... everything in the shitter. War, rumours of war, economic collapse, apathy in the West, hysteria in the East. 87.8% of the world only interested in themselves and their families. Other 12.2% are evil vicious dickheads and the ones who run the world and are ruining it for everyone else.
However, liquor stores open late, so buck up.
Hmmmm, I thought you had something for me, Bi-Polar.
I never challenge the Bear's view of the world condition because he's usually right.
Saves me the cost of newspapers and and high speed internet. Instead of wasting my money on such trivia, I spend my time reading tea leaves.
Dissapointment is but one arrow in my quiver.
Better yet, just read The Journal of Commerce every day...it'll help if you're interested in shipping news.