Monday, November 23, 2009

"That's Not News!"

Jim Kunstler embarks on his latest iteration of apocalypse with the following:

How infantile is American society? Last night's CBS "Business Update" (in the midst of its "60 Minutes" program) featured three items: 1.) The New Moon teen vampire movie led the weekend box-office receipts; 2.) Cadbury shares hit an all-time high; 3.) Michael Jackson's rhinestone-studded white glove sold at auction for $350,000. Some in-house CBS-News producer is responsible for this fucking nonsense. How does he or she keep her job? Is there no adult supervision at the network?

My answer, which dovetails nicely with his, is: no, there isn't. But that's no surprise, since there are so few adults left in America (or indeed, anywhere else in Western society) anymore.

Kunstler goes on to say that it's far past time America re-localized and called a halt to its financial shenanigans. He's been arguing the same thing every week for a number of years, and still few people seem willing even to give him a hearing, let alone take him seriously. I won't bother to enter into his world in this blog entry. I'll stop at his front door and ponder his opening question instead.

Back when I was a kid and often subject to The Question--"what do you want to be when you grow up?"--I was never really sure. I wanted to be a policeman like my dad for a while, until I realized my physical and mental limitations (poor eyesight, no co-ordination, and a decided tendency towards absentmindedness) weren't exactly conducive to a life of crime-fighting. I wanted to be a musician, but lacked the discipline to elevate myself beyond the pedestrian. Then I hit upon becoming a writer.

I took an English degree towards this end...and hated it so much I had to drop out to save my sanity. Between the professors telling you how to think (their way, always) and the mind-numbingly boring material, filtered always through professorial perception and stripped of any interest it might have had), I just couldn't take it after a couple of years. I saw myself as an editorialist-in-waiting, and literary criticism didn't fit in my worldview.

Then I found out that an editorialist-in-waiting is a de facto reporter, and I quaked in my boots. If there's anything worse than being a news reporter, I don't know what it is. I'd rather be a used car salesman. Hell, I'd rather be a politician.
A good reporter regards everything as his or her business. Privacy is irrelevant (except where it comes to sources, that is). I am a very open individual myself, if I know you and trust you, but that's me. You may be a private person, unwilling to share the intimate details of your life with the world...and I respect that. Particularly when (let's say) your house burns down or your child drowns. I fail to see how sharing your feelings in those instances with Mr. Action 7 will do you any good at all.
I could maybe change my mindset on this...heaven knows I've changed my mind on enough things over the years, and my attitude regarding privacy is riddled with complexities and inconsistencies. But there remains one fundamental issue that keeps me far, far away from the news business, and it's the title of this post.

I can't begin to tell you the number of times I have said these three words. Often silently, to myself, sometimes I practically scream them. But scarcely a day goes by without those three words springing to mind. That's not news.

It's not news when a Hollywood couple gets married, much less when they get divorced. Whoever wins or loses the latest reality treacle on television, it's not news. Pretty much the whole field of entertainment is, well, entertainment...not news.

Sports, likewise, are sports. They're not news. If your local team wins a championship, that's news, I suppose--it certainly affects a significant proportion of the population. But the results of a single game? Or the off-field antics of an athlete-celebrity? Is this important? Does it benefit me somehow to know this? If I follow the team, I already know it, and I have sports channels to see replays. If I don't follow the team, I...DON'T...CARE.

News is what is wrong with the world. More importantly, and often missing from other peoples' definitions, news is what's right with the world. Pretty much every problem ever faced by humanity has been, or is being, solved somewhere. Who, what, where, when, why and how? If the problem isn't getting solved in this particular part of the world, why?

Kunstler gives three examples of non-news from the business update (!) segment of 60 Minutes. The first is a box office recap. Unless you're in the business of selling Twilight merchandise, tell me, really, do you give a tinker's fart? Do we judge the worth of movies by their take, now? Scary thought.
The second--Cadbury shares are up--is, well, of marginal interest. In and of itself it means nothing unless you're one of that tiny subset of people who own stock in Cadbury. Taking the wider view--which I doubt 60 Minutes did--it says something about what sort of 'luxuries' people turn to in hard times.
And the third, that a piece of jewel-encrusted fabric once worn by a man who's now dead sold for over a third of a million dollars...

You know what? I take everything I just said back. That is news. It's news that fits squarely in the category of what's wrong with the world. And likewise, most of the pappy sappy crap out of Hollywood is news, for the same reason.

Congratulations, Ken, you just depressed the hell out of yourself.

1 comment:

Rocketstar said...