Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The News: I Think We're Doing It Wrong

Maybe it's because I belong to the first wave of forty-somethings who can remember a time when the news was actually the news, but I am sick of all the crap, know what I'm sayin'?

Our parents had to seek out news in order to get news. Louie read the papers every day and we kids learned what we had to know. Things like "ketchup is a vegetable" and "trees cause pollution." Oh, the Reagan years.

Let's see, in our super low budge deadest-end of Connecticut's urban sprawl, there was the daily local, The Waterbury Republican. We also got the New York Daily News, and I was thrilled when that arrived on Sundays. First off, it was pink. Then in addition to the stories, there was always an athlete or a movie star on the front page, it had an fat center section with crosswords and find-its and advice columns and sometimes you'd find a large foldout poster of a New York Yankee. Dave Winfield! Goose! We were so ghetto-fabulous I can't even stand it.

If you didn't read the news in the paper, then you tuned your antennae to radio and television news reporters who read it out loud to you while you babysat your brother, who sat on the floor in his  Spiderman Underoos and practiced spelling out BOOBLESS on your brand new digital calculator. The only TV in the house was in the den if you were a reg'luh Amerikun, in the parlour ("pah-ler") if you were Italian. The set was the size of a Buick and it didn't have to match the furniture because it was furniture. Like all quality technology -- including the car --  parts of it simulated some sort of wood. You twirled that UHF dial when nobody was looking, just to see what happened. When you got a new TV, it just got placed on top of the old TV. Thankfully that meant putting away into the sticky-back photo album all those photos of you and your brother in short-shorts, tall socks and eyeglasses the size of car windshields. I don't know where you put the Hummels, the church tag sale maybe?

Before cable television and the Internet ushered forth the 24-hour news cycle, the news was actually news. The news spread when you went to the movies with your friends. That's when you told each other what happened that day, what you read, what you saw, what happened at home, last weekend at camp, last month at your grandfather's funeral, last night on the 25th Anniversary of Motown, did you see that? You didn't!? It was like totally awesome! If only there was a way that you could see it, but it was already on TV, see, so you missed it...but let me tell you all about it...

You couldn't just wordlessly post a link -- like lobbing a thought-grenade back over your shoulder as you walk away -- it was more necessary to convey expression every time you communicated with people, and because that contact was either via telephone or in person, people heard your voice and/or saw your face. Expression. As technology has moved more and more of our personal interactions online, we can only do our best at expression in text form. Hence the emoticon, and shortcuts that stand in for our most expressive moments. LOL.

An exchange with someone that wasn't in the room with you was not a perpetual entity; when you were at home with your family, all of your friends were at home with their families, too. You would call and communicate when you both had time and opportunity for the conversation, and during the communication you were each other's sole audience. Remember time limits for the phone? Remember stretching the cord so you could talk to your friends as far from the family as possible, which sometimes involved a broom closet. I specifically called Michelle (there were four Michelles) when Dr. Noah Drake appeared on General Hospital for the first time, because she was babysitting her brother too just like I was, and between making them bologna sandwiches and all their whining they were always making us miss stuff. Michelle was my Rick Springfield friend, so she's who I called.  I saw Motown 25 and I called Simone to make sure she was watching it, then we talked about it for like a week. Simone was my Michael Jackson friend. Dude, she had the red jacket. I was positively green with envy, but I could only tell her about it for twenty minutes after dinner if all my homework was done. Local calls free, long distance rates better after 7pm on weeknights.

I found out Michael Jackson died on Facebook. How many Facebook friends do you have? I have around four hundred. A big celebrity dies, some athlete does something with a ball of some sort, or like, you know, it's hot out -- and each and every person you know feels the need to tell everyone about it. Could you imagine four hundred phone calls to tell you that Michael Jackson died? But that's what happens.

Facebook and Twitter have made it so easy for every ordinary person to "broadcast" that "the news" is rendered irrelevant. I don't need the weather report. I just need to log on and view fifty-eight photos of everyone's dashboard temperature gauge.

Social networks, having taken the place of actually having to talk to your friends deliberately, are a vital organ in the gargantuan info-monster that never sleeps. Before we all fell over each other to merge into traffic on the information highway, we watched the news, and when we were finished, we turned it off. We turned it off because the news was over until the next day when there would be newer news.

Isn't there something incredibly creepy about turning from HLN to CNN to Fox to BBC to local news and find that they are all nattering on about the same things, and it's all sensationalized, overblown stories? And a lot of them are just stories about, or from, Facebook or Twitter?

Like Abercrombie and Fitch clothing sizes and their snotty CEO who doesn't like fat kids.

Like how they're circling the same Jodi Arias drain for the fourth straight month and they interrupt themselves with "breaking news." And "breaking" is merely "something may be happening somewhere. A dog is barking, I don't know if you hear..."

That "a dog is barking" thing not made up. That was a CNN reporter during the non-stop coverage of the Boston lock-down the week of April 15th 2013. Then there's another commercial break for a direct-to-public marketed drug. Fatazatrim, because your az is too fat and it must be true, because feminists and fat actresses are freaking out over a thing the Abercrombie guy said in 2006. Was that a news story, or was it a marketing campaign? Facebook made that Abercrombie story the biggest thing of the week. I call bullshit. I hadn't heard the name Abercombie and Fitch that many times in my entire life, and when I Googled, all I found was a long set of incredibly beautiful sepia-toned photos of nearly nude young godly men with spun locks of gold and twinkly eyes. Great campaign, guys. Brilliant marketing move.

But I digress. The news, yes. Gone are the days where you had to be Dan Rather, Walter Kronkite, Diane Sawyer in order to be heard. Now you turn to CNN and it's the toothy, shellacked "television personality" interviewing an "expert" about last month's Big News Story They Can't Let Go, neither of them are adding a single thing to the discussion at this point but they lustily take it all the way to the commercial break. Which is a commercial for mood stabilizers, which are always cartoons, for some reason. Or boner pills, which always show old people in outdoor bathtubs. Who's got all these twin outdoor bathtubs? You think it's the news with commercial breaks, but it is all advertising. It's one big, long, uninterrupted advertisement.

Where do I go for the real news, the source of the news? The next big story I hear, I am going to pinpoint where and from whom I heard it, and then try to track back to the source.

Then I guess I'll post it on Facebook. ROTFLMAO. :) kthxbai