Tuesday, January 15, 2008

What Constitutes News?

Bermuda Bluez posted yesterday about the tragic news story where the father killed his 4 children. I mentioned, in my comment, that I was not sure why we had to get all of the news all of the time. I remember when I was a child, getting national and international news (and it basically pertained to nations) every night on TV but local news was obtained via your local daily newspaper.

I thought later that I sounded awfully coldhearted. I also thought that maybe I was misremembering my childhood. That happens more and more the older I get.

I started reading Tom Brokaw's "Boom" today. In the first chapter, Tom talks about when he got his first job on the national news in 1962. ABC did not yet have nightly news. CBS had Walter Cronkite and NBC had the Huntley-Brinkley Report. They each had 15 minutes of news in the evening. 15 minutes.

No wonder news seemed more important then. With only 15 minutes, the stories chosen were those stories that had world impact. Not every horrific story meritted national news coverage.

I know that knowledge is power. I know that we, the empirical we, are destined to repeat history if we don't learn from it. I know that I do not watch the 2 hours of dinner time news available in my area. I do not watch the 1 1/2 hours of morning news available in my area (this is not the 'morning show'), it is the morning news.

I am horror-stricken that 4 children died at the hands of the person they should have been able to trust the most. I am horror-stricken by at least 3 stories every day. Do I think that these stories are national news? No, I do not. I think that they are, and it grieves me to use this word, fillers.

I think that "news" programs cost less to produce than dramas or comedies or decent children's programming. I think that "news" programs are easier to produce than dramas or comedies or decent children's programming. I think that if you click on the "Top Stories" button on whatever home page you have and read the first five entries, you will have absorbed everything that the media is going to regurgitate all over your nightly news.

Unfortunately, my larger semi-local newspaper has started taking this same easy way out. The front page of this newspaper, which is published in a city 50 miles from me, has the same 5 entries as my computer. Yes, there is local news inside but, you know what?

I want to read about the local stock show on the front page. I want to read about the kindergarten class learning to pour tea for the senior citizens at the assisted living center. I want to read about 4H scholarships and high school academic standings and who's kid is on the honor roll. I am blessed because I do have this in my local small-town newspaper.

I am not uninformed. I make it my business to stay informed. I do not believe that the mainstream media, print or electronic, is the best source of objective information. I listen to 30 minutes of news a day. I read the small town newspaper in my hometown, in the town where my mom currently lives, in the towns where I used to live and I read the small town newspapers in towns where the national media thinks that there is "news".

I don't know that this would work for everyone, but it helps me keep my sanity and my spirit.


Pamela said...

the headlines makes me ill so much of the time.

I sometimes take a break for several weeks

stwidgie said...

Hear hear! I stopped watching TV news years ago for much the same reason. I'd like to read a paper, but can't reconcile myself to recycling so much unread matter and the guilt I know it would bring me. Long may your home town newspaper flourish. Are there any of the small papers online that you'd recommend as sources for troo nooz?

ChrisB said...

I usually watch Tv news both national and local once a day and I do read the newspapers. However I am often shocked at the stories that are splashed across the front are for the sensational effect and often some very important things are hidden away in a little paragraph. Funnily enough I was chatting to my neighbour earlier today~ (he always used to give us the local evening paper when he had read it) this stopped after Christmas and he was explaining that it was because of the content.

Karmyn R said...

And I must add - Britney Spears not showing up for her custody-hearing case should NEVER be headline news.

AnGlOpHiLe FoOtBaLl FaNaTiC said...

This is why I only glance at the Yahoo headlines when I am checking my email. I literally become enraged. And, I am SOOO with you. What happened to the elementary school choir singing Christmas caroles? Or the Eagle Scout who built the handicapped ramp into the church? Where are the feel good stories?

Emma in Canada said...

I thought that story was heartbreaking. But because we hear so much we are almost immune to it. "Oh how sad, another 4 children killed at the hands of their parent." and then we go on with our day.

Alison said...

I could not agree with you more!!

Queen of the Mayhem said...

I am torn. I watch Fox News obsessively....but then I sometimes feel sickened by the stories I hear!

I am not sure if I want to know less...but I would love to shield my children from a lot of the stories.

PS: THat story about the kids was sickening! SICKENING!

Kim said...

I'm also a news junkie. I think that's why I love personal blogs. The homegrown stories and relationships keep me grounded.


tiger lamb girl said...

I hadn't heard of that news story --- that's awful! So sad:(.

I watch a bit of news to stay clued in, but honestly, I just don't want to be overrun with the horrors of the world.

Robinella said...

The problem with news today is that is ISN'T news!!!! It's sensationalism. Sex sells and unfortunately, so does murder.

I quit watching the news about 5 years ago and I feel so much better these days. When I hear folks talking about "the news", I turn a deaf ear.

I'm like you and it's the uplifting things that happen that I want to hear about my little town. I check the internet for world news.

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