Tuesday, January 26, 2010

My take on the Nightly News - an unpublished (read: rejected) column

Here's an odd personality quirk of mine – one of many, but who's counting? I'm a news junkie, one who combs the Internet daily for obscure stories from around the globe. Politics, sports, science, crime – you name the story and chances are I've linked to it on my Facebook account.

But at least once a week a friend will try to discuss something they saw on a local newscast and I won't have a clue about what they're talking about. That's my fault. I tend to avoid TV news whenever possible. Madison could gift me a million dollars, and if the announcement was exclusive to TV, I'd march off to work the next day counting my pennies.

I'm not proud of this admission. I'm not a intellectual twit who turns up his nose at the TV (my DVR is a very dear friend), or a Luddite who prefers his news delivered on parchment. No, I'm afraid that in my gut I just agree with the perception that TV news amounts to a blistering montage of the worst of human nature. Murder, rape, abuse, shooting and theft, repeated for half an hour.

Interrupted, of course, by sports, weather, and a series of commercial breaks.

This aversion started when, as a teenager during Operation Desert Shield, the distinctive ABC Nightly News jingle became a harbinger of grim news. I agree, I was a bit on the wimpy side back in the day, but the damage was done. Later, as an adult, I just decided TV news was too focused on the dark for my liking.

It's not that newspapers and their online equivalents favor rainbows and unicorns. There's plenty of murder and mayhem, and the lead stories are usually tales of woe. But there's also space – space to discuss a dozen of mankind's darkest tales, but with room left over for an interview or two, a few inches on the latest scientific discoveries, and the human interest piece about the little old lady with the world's largest porcelain cat collection.

Then again, sometimes I'm reassured that we're all still so fascinated by the ghastly and the bizarre. After all, news is only news because it's something unusual, a break from the routine. You don't call someone each and every day at 6 o'clock and tell them about how you woke up, brushed your teeth, had breakfast, etc – unless, of course, you happen to be my mother-in-law. No, you call them to share the break from the routine, the spice, good or bad, that makes 'this' day different from all the rest that came before.

When an experience saturates our existence, we grow oblivious to it. It's human nature. Drunk driving arrests are so numerous here in Wisconsin that individual cases rarely deserve headlines. Childhood obesity is a major concern now, but it managed to stay under the radar until it was epidemic. No telecast or newspaper will ever trumpet news of an everyday citizen cited for pot possession, any more than they'd report on the sun rising in the east.

Bad things are always going to happen in this world, but when they become so commonplace as to go unnoticed and unreported, then we've truly got a problem. I guess, when you look at it that way, I should be grateful that the nightly news iss so morbid. It's a sign that our everyday life isn't as dark as it sometimes appears.


Slapinions said...

my moms gonna be happy it wasn't published! I'm sure the JS is affiliated w/ news shows and that's why it was "rejected", cause it was good :)

Slapinions said...

Lisa - The reason the J gave for the rejection was their ownership of TV/Radio stations.

Bucko (a.k.a., Ken) said...

I get most of my news from NPR driving to and from work, and a spattering from TV. I get very little from the net.

Bridgett said...

I could not agree with you more about TV news. It depresses the hell out of me. I just stopped watching.

Now I get the bulk of my news from Perez Hilton. ;)

alphawoman said...

Dan - what is your e-amil address? it is not listed on your profile. I had to ahve a new hard drive put on my computer and I am hoping you still have that Photo shop Elements program???

(same old e-mail)