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News Headaches

Maybe it’s because she’s getting older or maybe not, but Crabby Old Lady is getting a much larger percentage of her daily news these days from the Web rather than from radio and television. It’s not that it’s easier or better necessarily, but at least it doesn’t hurt.

In traditional broadcast media, the speed of delivery has come, lately, to rival that of old-time auctioneers like this one - the voice of Tom Cassidy, stolen from Sunspot Productions:

Okay, Crabby admits that's exaggerated a bit, but the rat-a-tat-tat delivery of news is a fact, and coupled with the intent of program hosts and anchors to convince Crabby that the hacking of Paris Hilton’s telephone book is a security breach meriting the shutdown of airports and borders, trying to find out what’s happened in the world is akin to physical assault.

News today sounds like semi-automatic handgun fire. Stories have been shortened to the length of bullet points and verbs have been caught in the cross-fire: “Queens building collapse; two dead. Japan in space. Key insurgent arrest. Capture in Kansas. Suicide bomb in Tel Aviv. Stay tuned.” After a barrage of 20 rapid-fire commercials followed by a fusillade of lottery numbers – 14, 27, 44, 45, 51, 62 – Crabby needs emergency medical care.

If Crabby were not so agitated and simultaneously exhausted from this verbal onslaught, she would feel as she does when the color-coded terror alert is raised: Yeah? And what should she do about it? The media culture of fear has us in its clutches and according to all-so-called-news-all-the-time, the grim reaper is gaining on us.

There was a time when news editors and anchors believed it was their job to actually edit the news into a hierarchy of importance. While the rest of us were manufacturing widgets and generally keeping the business of America afloat, they could be trusted to wade through the multitude of daily events and sort the dreck from the need-to-know. And – heaven forfend, these days - they even put it in context for us. Huntley-Brinkley come to mind along with Edward R. Murrow, Walter Cronkite and Linda Ellerbee. (You young ‘uns among us will have to look them up for yourselves.)

This post came to mind when Crabby had breakfast on Saturday with her friend, Caroline – much younger, at age 40, than Crabby – who declared that television news, with its hammering speed and volume, made her feel bad all the time, and she’s given it up. She is undoubtedly not alone and Crabby, a news junkie by anyone’s definition, hadn’t realized until Caroline brought it up how frequently she turns off the radio as soon as she has determined if she needs an umbrella.

Perhaps that is what the powers that be are counting on. Crabby Old Lady has little truck with conspiracy theorists, but adding journalists who are paid to shill for the government’s point of view and fake reporters in the White House to the maximum-speed noise and debasement of news to entertainment – well, even Crabby wonders: is all this together a plot to keep everyone so disoriented and distracted from what's really going on that our freedoms will be ripped out from under us before we notice?

Crabby’s going to go take an aspirin now and check with the thought police on that question (online) in the morning.

Comments

"...Queens building collapse.... Japan in space. Key insurgent arrest."
Gosh, Ronni, I don't know how queens build collapses, or how I would recognize that they had finished a collapse. I didn't know that Japan had "in" space and "out" space--they are such a trendy populous, though, that I can imagine it. And, finally, how do keys insurge? Obviously someone knows how to stop a key's insurgence since they managed to arrest it!
Sorry, but I got the giggles, there.
Even NPR doesn't handle news as well as it did years ago and the newspapers all look like tabloids these days. Arise, Bloggers, and straighten out the mass media! (Obviously, I'm sleep deprived.)

Er...apologies to Ronni and Crabby. I do get you two confused even when I'm not sleep deprived. Neither of you should be insulted by the confusion, though!

Crabby Rocks

Take Care
Michael

Hi, Ronni. You've been reading my mind again.
I put this down to the corporate ownership of the media and the recasting of news as entertainment... of a sort.
First they sell the ad slots, then they plug the network's primetime lineup, then they have their scare/draw story... toward the end of the broadcast... and then they fill the rest of the time with as many bits as possible. I don't think journalism has anything to do with it anymore.
Dang, but I miss those broadcast journalists we grew up with.

Rave on, Crabby! Right with you here! I also find the reading of news far more helpful than the machine-gunning of audio stuff. Even if I only read a couple of stories, I can at least sit with them, digest them, let their reality (or at least the reality created by the reporter writing the stories) sink in.

If you get an answer to your last question, do share... :)

"is all this together a plot to keep everyone so disoriented and distracted from what's really going on that our freedoms will be ripped out from under us before we notice?"

Interesting question. I have often thought about that - at least in a subconscious context at any rate. That is to say, I am not sure that some "one" out there is doing it on purpose. We all just have taken on avoidance and denial as part of our system - anything to distract ourselves from the really important issues.

I listen to the media and read news on the web equally as much, and find it exhausting quite often. My main source of fatigue is the competitive nature of everyone trying to get the news in first, be the cleverest critic and then take on an "I told you so" attitude. There is a frenetic atmosphere and, yes, it numbs the brain after awhile - and misses the point of community.

Hmmm... perhaps I'll blog about this myself some day!

I don't watch the news much anymore - and we might have a bit to catch up with the scaremongering the USA displays on the news. I know when I've seen USA news they make it sound much more sensationalist than we get here in Australia - partly because of the way the news is actually read out I think. We're much more laid back about it here.

If you've seen Mike Moore's documentary 'Bowling for Columbine' one of the reasons he came up with for people using guns to kill was the media scaring people into believing it's a really bad world out there and they need to protect themselves with weapons.

Bad money drives out good. Ice cream outsells spinach. The big companies who own most of the media outlets (which is why I giggle at the conservatives who lament the left-leaning media), aren't stupid. They know that sugary cereals outsell the plain, old healthful cereals. The media pander to our baser instincts, our lowest common denominators, our penchant for the easy path. "They [the enemy] is us." Pogo

Does anyone know why all the advertising on nightly national news (the prime slot, from 6:30 to 7) is health-aids? Excedrin, Metamusil, viagra, vyox, etc. I know it's the advertiser's job to first create a need (a sudden doubting of our health) and then fill it, at which they do a pretty good job, but is there some possible connection at work here that I'm missing? For instance, do the drug manufacturers think the news creates sufficient stress and fear for us to be easy sells for their products at news breaks? I'm just wondering why all health-related ads seem clustered at newstime. Anyone have any theories, or - better yet - know anything about this?

Not many young people watch network news anymore, ML, so advertisers target old folks on those shows and they seem to believe health aids are all we need or want to spend money on - that is, when we haven't misplaced the TV remote and forgotten where our glasses are.

Ronni's spot-on, as usual. This morning I read Ken Auletta's profile (expose, really) of Dan Rather in the current New Yorker (Mar.7) and noticed this: "The average age of the people who watch the news on the three networks is sixty;...All three programs, with their repeated focus on health issues, interspersed with commercials for products like Mylanta and Viagra, reflect this."

Certainly do concur with your commentary on news today, Crabby! I've been stewing on that topic for many years. Even find myself educating my young 'uns about the failures of the media; that it wasn't always this bad. In turn, they give me some direction on news sources via the internet.

I find there is a chance to hear intelligent discussion beyond sound bites on Charlie Rose pertinent to legitimate news topics. Is anybody doing any good investigative journalism any more?

I like Jon Stewart, but don't get to see his show, often. I do have to wonder about the significance that so many younger people cite his show as their news source. What does this mean?

The question of conspiracy suggests precisely what I've thought was happening with the promotion of celebrity which seems now to be an obsession for many ... distract the masses. Sort of like "let them eat cake." I can see it has even broader implications from the issues you've raised, Crabby.

We rant and rale at my house about loss of real news. Then, one or the other of us will ask, "...and how old are you? ... well, they don't care what you think, what you like, or what you want to see!" We just don't fit into that desired age group any more.

As for the machine gun delivery, constant changing of topics, even sporting events like baseball (slow as it is,) football, etc. with constant replays and all the other jumping around that goes on in TV today, many older folk can't keep up with what's happening. But, who cares.

Don't even get me started on those medicinal/ailment ads -- how insulting! Most of the older people I talk to aren't sucked in by them.

By the way, what's with the commentless Payday Loan posting 11/29/05? Is this an invasion, or the future of blogging?

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