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News deja vu

Food For Thought

With all the things going on in this world of ours, I can’t believe that our news-gatherers find it necessary to report the same events several times in a day– sometimes even several times during one half-hour newscast. I turn on the evening news which reports a half-hour of local, national and world news, followed by a half-hour of national and world news from one of the big networks, and then another half-hour from the local station. During those 90 minutes, I am told about the “biggest” stories a minimum of three times, but often, eight or nine times. Makes me wonder if there is so little other news to report that these professional news mongers have the luxury of telling us first; what they are going to tell us, then telling us in great detail, then to be sure we didn’t miss anything, telling us what they have told us. I steadfastly refuse to watch more than that one hour-and-a-half of news in any one day. But even then, I risk being subjected to additional iterations in the future. Maybe this is based on the notion that, if we hear something often enough, we will eventually come to believe it is true.
Sure enough, the same material is paraded across my television screen on the following day’s newscast. There is seldom any new information added to the original, even the accompanying pictures and interviews with bystanders are the same ones I saw the day before. There was a time, before the railroads brought us the telegraph, when it took days, even weeks for important news to reach all the way across our continent. Not everybody knew almost instantly that Lincoln had been shot as they did at the time of Kennedy’s assassination. Nor did they learn the outcome of an election even before all the ballots had been cast.
Some people would argue that there are those who might miss hearing the news if it were not offered at several convenient times during the day. People who work at jobs during those newscasts, or who work odd hours and may be asleep at that time. Or maybe some people don’t have time to sit down and watch the whole broadcast, so they may miss something important if it is not repeated. I don’t buy that as an excuse to saturate one newscast with repetitions of the same story. If a person is likely to watch any newscast, isn’t he going to be aware of the usual time it is broadcast? Wouldn’t he take the trouble to tune in if he were interested? And why repeat the facts several times during one program. Isn’t it the viewer’s fault if he tunes in late or neglects to pay attention?
That issue is just a tiny part of what’s missing in our present methods of dispersing news. What really bothers me is that I find it hard to believe that the few stories we hear on our news programs are the only things of significance that are happening in this world on any given day. With today’s more or less instant means of communication, and the billions of people populating this earth, I sincerely wonder why we are subjected to the same news stories for two or three days in a row. Surely there are things more interesting– and more significant to the future of the world– going on, things that we have not been, and never will be, informed about. And I find it significant that, no matter what newscast we watch, or what network or wire service, the news always consists of the same “important” events. Events picked and chosen by someone who has decided that this particular semi-catastrophe or that seemingly world-changing scandal will be of interest to the most viewers and thus raise the ratings for whatever news service claims to have discovered it.
The world population reached the six billion mark in 1999, and is expected to pass nine billion sometime in 2050. I can’t believe, with all those people and all the things they are likely to do and the variety and number of things that can happen to them, that there aren’t a fresh batch of news stories happening every minute of every day. And, I also wonder just who tracks down the stories we do hear about. I hear these requests for the general public to call television and radio stations if they see news happening. I assume this means that those stations rely, at least in part, on someone other than professional news-gatherers to find interesting news stories for them. This means, I suppose, that Clark Kent and Lois Lane aren’t out there every day pounding the pavements in search of the news of the day. And I wonder just how accurate those stories are after they’ve passed through the ears and minds of the newsroom chain of command. It sort of reminds me of a party game we used to play at birthday parties and slumber parties. Called “Gossip” the game started with one person whispering a statement to the person next to them. The whispered message was passed on from one person to the next until all present had heard it and it had made it’s way back to it’s originator. After a dozen or more repetitions, the message was never the same as when it started out.