Is it me? I admit that sometimes I feel that I am in the Land of OZ or have fallen through the rabbit hole, but in a time when we have millions of people unemployed, civil unrest in Egypt, houses being foreclosed on like never before, public school systems under siege and young college graduates unable to find jobs that do not require asking about one’s penchant for fries, why in the hell are the news broadcasts full of interviews with grade B television actors and the latest perils of people like LIndsay Lohan?
Please raise your hands if you care if she goes to jail or not, is exiled on an island or not or is sentenced to clean floors with her tongue or not. When they devote five minutes on the morning shows recapping her escapades and speculating on her punishment I have to think that the end of our civilization is near.
I am now going to engage in dinosaur talk about the old days. Back when I was a young woman we had journalists like Walter Cronkite and David Brinkley. I cannot imagine Cronkite announcing who won on “Survivor”, let alone interview the sole survivor. He would have felt it was beneath him, and it would have been. He was a journalist, not a person paid to make up news from the actions or antics of irrelevant people who happen to have good publicity agents or shows on the same network.
When the news came on when I was a young woman it was NEWS. Something that was happening that a lot of people might find relevant. If you tell me you find what someone wore to an awards show relevant you can stop reading now—-what am I saying? If you think most of what is shown as news these days is relevant you probably cannot read!
I know, I know, the dumbing down, I would call it the moronic overhaul, of the news is blamed on CNN and other 24 hour news channels and shows .The theory is that the news channels have all the news that is news all day, so the other news shows, only on for a few minutes a day, have to have news they might not cover. Add the internet and people can find news anytime, the 6 o’clock folks have to have something to catch your attention.
But really people, showing that grandmother in England whapping would be robbers with her purse every hour for two days? Sure it was cute the first time I saw it, but by the time I had seen it ten times I was rooting for the bandits to knock her down and take that purse! Newsworthy? Maybe in the area of personal interest stories or local color, but the news shows are so poorly done now they are not only showing things that are not newsworthy they are showing them repeatedly.
I have what will no doubt be a really ignored suggestion. On the evenings where nobody has shot someone in the neighborhood, no planes have fallen from the sky, no fights have broken out at a hockey game, no kittens have gotten their heads stuck in a peanut butter jar, no cars have piled up on I-40 ( or I-75) can we have an investigative spot in the place of what starlet is sleeping with whom, taking what drug, having a baby without benefit of marriage or skinny dipping in mall fountains?
How about examining why America has a higher infant death rate than some third world countries, why so many teenagers still decide to take up smoking–even though we know what it does, why some people continue to hate other groups of people, why men continue to wear ties and women continue to wear mascara ( imagine an archeologist thousands of years from now. “The men put these pieces of cloth around their necks and tied them for what reason? Was it a sexual display to attract a mate, they seem to have come in a lot of gaudy colors?” or ” The women used to take these wands with black grease and run them across their eyelashes? Why? Was it a cultural ritual of some kind? Did the women with the eyelashes that looked most like a spider’s legs attract men? Have more job offers?”) or some other mystery. Perhaps why football teams who win the toss now always defer and start on defense? Makes no sense–do not bother to write, I know what they say, it still makes no sense.
Anyway–can we use the “News” show time to educate if there is no news? I know Americans are not the sharpest knives in the drawer, I know this. I was core faculty at a research conference last fall in DC. The other faculty were from Harvard, Yale and Stanford. When we went out to dinner the first evening after the proceedings I brought up the subject of the dumbing down of America and lamented that I was afraid that 70% or so of Americans were not in danger of being sought out by MENSA. ( I admit there were adult beverages involved at this dinner). My colleagues looked at me and told me I must be a cockeyed optimist if I thought it was only 70%.
I blame the News.