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kevvyd has media problems…

We were driving back from the South Shore yesterday, listening to the radio when my wife remarked about the Amish schoolhouse shootings of a couple of weeks back. I can’t actually remember the context of the remark, though something must have come up on the news, perhaps a funeral or somesuch. In any case, just the remark started off a train of thought that is now arriving at this post.

I will begin, as did the train, with a question. Why should I care about what happened in that school that day? There is not a thing I could possibly have done to either prevent, produce, or exacerbate the situation. Therefore, why on earth should I care about it? I don’t mean to be crass, and surely that is how this must sound, but if there is nothing at all that I could do about it, why indeed should I even know about it?

Of course I know why I know about it. I know about it because CNN and the other news agencies blasted it 24/7 after it happened, and the web was full of the “news”. The purpose for the fine people at CNN to show it to me, of course, is to sell whatever tampon or, more likely, life-enhancing medication that I need to live life a full and active life, but how really do I benefit from knowing this?

Naturally, since the oldest of my two daughters is around the same age as some of the younger victims, my stomach fell a little when I read about it, but is that why I should know – for the rush of vicarious agony and sympathy? If there is really no reason for my knowing this terrible thing, what then, is the effect of it on me? Not of the event itself – to me it’s just a show, a story totally divorced from my reality, but what is the effect of my knowing about it?

My benefit? Anxiety. It has increased my anxiety just that little bit more because I was able to internalize the event in some way, make it a little real by saying “Wow, she was Kate’s age…” And every time some jackass kills his wife or offs his kids, I get to read about it and maybe see the tape in front of the house that looks just like mine and my anxiety gets notched up a little bit more, because I can internalize it, I can say “Hey, he’s kinda like me – wife, kids, job…” And every time some guy gets in a car accident I say “Whoa, I just drove on that road last month”

Anxiety. The news. News about things that don’t matter to me and in no way affect me, excepting their emotional impact. Useless news that has only the effect of putting me and others on edge to the point that we can feel personally involved and maybe even threatened by all of the world’s ills, while at the same time experiencing none of it’s joys. None of the joys, because joys are only broadcast in the form of travel brochures for things that you can’t afford, and, well, I can’t afford them. And until I can afford that 54″ JVC 1080p LCD television, how can I possibly be happy?

Here lies the central problem; there is news that I need to know about and there is news that is not news – stuff that I do not need. Unfortunately it comes at us at such a rate that it’s like trying to sip from a firehose and in an effort to keep up with things I think I need to know – like what are the Conservatives going to do on environmental issues and how bad is it getting in Afghanistan, I get anxious and depressed. We need the news media to tell us what’s going on in our capitals so that we can produce opinions, generate ideas, and cast sensible ballots – that we can’t turn off.

I guess it is just a matter of filtering the chaff from the wheat – pre-processing the data before it hits the grey matter. Something that I have to do a better job of.

But then I also get to watch the Republicans turn into NAMBLA and Mark Foley turn the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children into No Child Behind Left and I realize that there is in fact some entertainment to be had, even in the chaff.

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7 thoughts on “kevvyd has media problems…

  1. Not to disagree with you on the relevance of the news story in question, Kevv, but it’s a fact – as shocking to you as it was to me, I’m sure – that CNN cannot gear its coverage to what one particular viewer wants to see. There are a lot of people in the CNN demographic – the population of Pennsylvania, for instance, for whom this does hit home.

    Besides, what’s your alternative? I’m not sure I’d agree with the level of censorship I think you’re suggesting, in fact, I’m damn sure I’m not.

    Also, who says there’s no fun there? Check out all the right-wing blogs who’re pissed off at the Amish for saying they mustn’t feel hatred towards the gunman, but forgiveness – apparantly, forgiveness is un-Christian! ‘Turn the other cheek’? Never heard of it, must be one of those pagan rituals….

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  2. Dan,
    I don’t suggest censorship at all, though I do think the 24-hour news biz should stick to national and international stories. For those in Pennsylvania actually affected by these events they have local news.

    What I really am on about is the need for me to develop better shit-filtration, as it is affecting me more than I would like to admit. I would like to think that being the media-savvy guy I like to think I am (hey, I blog!) that this means more than selective reading, but it might be as simple as that.

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  3. Define ‘local’, Kev – for instance, my Mom lives in Quebec, I have one sister in Ottawa and another in California; something that happens in those locations may very well be something I’d want to know about. For that matter, I’m sure there are people in Halifax who have relatives in Pennsylvania and might want to hear about this. It’s been a long time since family units stayed exclusively in the same village, my friend.

    I’ll agree with you about the need for more selective reading, but I think that really calls for a larger pool of information, not a smaller.

    I don’t know that blogging marks someone as media-savvy, although I’ll allow that it’s a term I’d apply to you. I’ve seen plenty of blogs, both on the left and right of the spectrum (although maybe a bit more so on the right), where the bloggers in question are seriously sufferng from Tolstoy Syndrome – their minds are made up, don’t confuse them with the facts, and their purpose for blogging is to let you know the One True Way.

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  4. A few points:
    Unfortunately, our news media can only “sell” their news, via ads. Companies want people to see these ads. CNN beleives that anxiety/fear gets people to watch them and their sold ad space. it is a vicious circle and does not promote “good” news. Should CNN reported about the shootings at the school? Yes, because it is important to a lot of poeple, as Dan stated, the whole state of Pennsylvania and those who have relatives in that school area. CNN is not a local news show and cannot show local news to just that local and show something different to other locales at the same time. That being said, They are very guilty of sensationalizing the issue, which can encourage copycats who want to be infamous perhaps posthumously. They are guilty of blasting it non-stop for 48 hours as “breaking news” (it was breaking during the first hour but thats it) which like any disk jockey knows that overplaying something people just get mad and bored with it (or write blogs about it.) What can we do about it? Not much unless we are Nielsen raters.
    For me, I rarely watch CNN for the very reasons you have stated. I do want to know about the school shooting (I am a teacher, after all), but I do not want to hear about it over and over again. I also want to hear about good things that happen. We don’t hear enough about those news items.
    My two cents worth.

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  5. I’ll agree with you that they oversensationalize the news, and that they’re guilty of blasting it nonstop. But that leads me to the conclusion that Kevvy’s wrong – the problem is not that there’s too much news, the problem is that the networks will focus on one story, forgoing everything else and they don’t really go into that one story into too much depth. So the problem is not too much news, it’s that the news has too narrow a focus, and a shallow one at that.

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  6. My initial point was not that there should be less news (market control) or that I and only I should dictate what news is produced (censorship) or anything of the sort. My point was that I am having a problem with the news; that for some reason, I’m feeling suddenly overwhelmed by bad news. I’m certain that being out of the loop completely for over a month has simply desensitized me to it.

    Or just helped me to notice it. Maybe going to sea returned me to a more normal state…

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  7. We should all be sent out to sea to revert to a more normal state. It is very true that we are bombarded with bad news all the time that we do get sensitized to it. All the more reason news broadcasters put a more drastic light on something to get above our desensitized threshold. Would it be nice if the world just stopped for a week. No news, no markets, no work, no politics, no shopping. just sit back and relax with your favorite hobby. I know it is a fantasy, but it is nice to dream for a while.

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