WHAT IS NEWS?
It never fails to astound me when I contemplate the “newsworthy” events of the day.
Yesterday, Art and I were driving somewhere with our radio tuned to a talk news station. They were going into lengthy detail about Michael Jackson’s stay at a local hospital for the flu. They even went so far as to describe his brief appearance at the window when he made the “V sign” to his fans. The commentator did not know whether the “V” was for “victory” or for “peace”. Hmmm. A weighty matter, indeed.
Do we really need to know the details of the separation of Brad Pitt and Jennifer Anniston? It seems like the news spends a lot of time and manpower telling me things I have no business knowing.
One of the Olsen twins (I forget which one) is struggling with anorexia, according to the papers. Again – What business is it of mine? And how can it possibly help her to feel the weight of the paparazzi on top of this potentially life-threatening disorder.
This morning in USA Today there was a piece about someone being successful on American Idol. Good for her. But do I care?
These are only a few examples in very recent memory. But it seems to me it’s always been this way. Back in the 50s, a prominent Hollywood star gave birth out of wedlock, and it was front-page news. (By the way – She was ostracized and blacklisted for years). I realize that mores have changed and that back then, having a child out of wedlock was considered taboo. Still, it seems to me a lot of to-do about nothing.
At the same time, the news continues to use scare tactics to get attention. Yesterday the United States was warned through coverage in all the media that Al-Quaeda was trying to regroup and plan a new attack on our country, possibly with biological or chemical weapons. You might think it is important that we know that. My own feeling is that 1) It’s not really news, because we know all too well that there are certain elements, like Al-Quaeda, who are constantly plotting to do catastrophic harm to the United States while making spectacular headlines. 2) There is absolutely nothing we can do about it as private citizens, except to worry, which is exactly what the terrorist organizations want us to do. Believe me, I don’t need to read alarmist headlines in order to remind myself, “Oh yeah – If I happen to overhear someone plotting to bomb Time Square I’d better call the FBI”.
Every morning in the newspaper, just across from my crossword puzzle, there is a picture of a child. Every morning it is a different child. The caption tells you that the child disappeared from home, and then tells you vital information such as the child’s date of birth, their race, eye color and hair color, when they disappeared, and how old they would be now. Sometimes they use computer technology to age the appearance of the child so that you can see roughly what they might look like now. Some of these children have been missing ten, or even fifteen years. I always take a good look at them. I think maybe one day I will spot one of these missing children and be able to alert the authorities so that they can be returned to their parents. I can’t believe that so many children go missing. Imagine. A new child, presumably abducted, in the paper every single day for years on end. Stuck way back in the “Life” section, across from the crossword puzzle.
© 2005, Robin Munson