HPIM1774There is so much going on in the world that is serious and tragic it is tough to consistently deliver humor in these pages. But I have to try as we need more lighthearted moments now than ever before. That said, this post is about current events that are not at all funny.
The 24/7 news cycle is not something pretty to behold. It’s lessened the importance of the President, especially when he is attempting to bring words that unite instead of divide. Last night and today again across the country, protests fail to heed the words of the president. Like the 24/7 news cycles, these events take on a life of their own. The fact the 24/7 news cycle is on and in our faces all the time is something that constitutes news—for better or for worse right now.
People have grown tired of the analysis from people on the sideline. And the curiosity of whether things like protests remain peaceful or not is what makes people tune in. The media is culpable in how events they’re covering turn out. If looters know they aren’t going to be on TV, is there as much incentive to loot as there would be if they had to loot without the bright lights of TV? Maybe, maybe not.
It was pretty clear the media saw extraordinary ratings possibilities with the events in Ferguson. The “always on” media would bring its bright lights to a powder keg waiting to explode and help act as igniter by focusing its laser of attention on the fragile environment.
Yes, we thirst to view events like these. We pay to go to the movies to see Hollywood’s versions. But we also are morbidly curious when life imitates what Hollywood would serve us as art. And so we tune in at record numbers to view real life violence in real time. And the media is guilty of fanning the flames of violence with its non-stop, in your face coverage.
“We’ll stay on the scene throughout these events, Jim” says one roving, talking head.
“Our cameras will bring you everything so our audience members won’t miss anything,” chirps another.
Their excitement over it all was just a little bit disgusting. The split screen of the President speaking and the rioting taking place brought the other point I’d like to make home.
Instead of talking heads analyzing constantly, parading “expert” after expert across the screen, from legal eagle analysis to man on the street enlightenment, to radio personalities who weigh in with talks of premature leaks, the whole play that substituted as news failed to seek the real story.
When I was a young boy I discovered I enjoyed writing. As I grew older and continued my passion for writing, I dreamed of one day being a news man. I joined the Navy and was a journalist. I covered a lot of “grip and grin” ceremonies, but I also did more than my share of contributing to the greater good by featuring human interest profiles of men, women and dependents who had stories that needed telling.
Daily newspapers were immediate enough in terms of news cycle delivery for well over 150 years. With the severely reduced staffing and resources of network and cable news outlets, things like Twitter feeds of celebrity opinions now constitute news. The fact is that there is only so much real news in a day to cover. Normal events like random acts of kindness don’t make the cutting room floor. Sexy women newscasters interviewing “experts” who are anything but generate interest, but at the end of the day, do little in terms of delivering actual news.
Sensationalism is greater than ever. While daily newspapers were guilty of it, today’s media outlets use the tactic as a way of life.
“The tear gas is dispersing unruly crowds quite effectively, Tom,” croaks one dry-throated, on the scene “newsman.” “But they gather back as soon as the wind blows the smoke away.”
This is not news so much as a play by play commentary. Since the events are unfolding on live TV, there is no need for a streetside reporter to tell us what we are seeing.
The news story that should be covered is left unexplored. This is the story that will not merit ratings bonanzas like riots. A good story always requires some investigative reporting. But no one bothered to take the time to explore the possibility because it promised zero spectacle.
If the country fails to pay attention to the President of the United States for answers after a country- and worldwide-reaching tragedy such as what occurred in Ferguson last night, who is out there with words and a plan of action behind them that can start us anew on the journey of healing?
Just because the President has failed to do so doesn’t mean there are not citizens that exist who have a plan to get the country back on a unified path moving forward.
In addition to the presidential disappointment, the news media has failed in its inability to report a news story about people with a tangible plan to change things for the better. It will take some good old-fashioned investigative reporting to discover where these people are. We know they’re out there. They have to be. The country’s well-being and future depend on it. Can our news media find them and bring us the story? I know I’d tune in if they did.