Several years ago I heard about a law suit (I recall it was in Colorado) brought by a citizen’s action group against the area’s local television networks, the crux of which was that the defendant stations would be required to either:
- Stop calling their news broadcasts “News”, or
- Actually report News
The prosecution contended that, after diligent study of various national and alternative news sources during a measured duration, the primary stories that concerned the people of that region were not being reported locally during that same duration. In their place was attention-grabbing ratings boosters, fluff, or agenda-motivated information (from either side of the political spectrum). According to the plaintiffs, what was being presented wasn’t “The News”, and thus the stations should not be allowed to label it so.
I have been searching online for news reports about this trial, but I cannot find anything. (Ironic, no? Nothing in the news about news shows not covering news?) But I don’t need to know how it turned out, because in the court of my mind (and to paraphrase Chris Rock), Judge Judy could have knocked that one out in 30 minutes. Between discussions of “Liberal Media Bias”, “Right-Wing Media Bias”, and figures reported by Michael Moore (“between 1990 and 1998, when the nation’s murder rate declined by 20 percent, the number of murder stories on network newscasts increased 600 percent (not counting stories about O. J. Simpson)”)*, I have essentially stopped paying attention to the news. I read an interview with Tom Petty (who isn’t a regular source for how-to-live-my-life tips, though I would defend his pre-“Free Fallin'”/Traveling-Wilburies releases ), and he indicated that his personal hiatus from the news was 2 years and ongoing, and in that time he felt a notable lessening of tension and anxiety in his life. While I accept that a cold-turkey abstinence from the media leaves one somewhat uninformed (as exposed in a recent conversation with two co-workers about viable contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination, a conversation that featured more names that I had never heard than those that I recognized), I think of it like arsenic in a wholesome vegetable soup…the vegetables might be good for you, but the only way to avoid the poison it is to avoid the soup itself.
However, last week the poison came to me.
Steph and I were hanging pictures in the living room, and in the background we had the sound of some mindless sitcom (is that redundant?) The sitcom ended, and the local news came next in the network lineup. I didn’t notice the transition until a pause in our activities allowed me to look over and observe the t.v. Having not seen the news in a while, I was curious if there was anything that I had been missing. What I saw left me dumbfounded. Listed below are the “headlines” of the stories that were covered by our local news station that day. I have not altered this list, I have not exaggerated this list, I have not omitted anything from this list in order to prove my point. This was “The News” from the moment I realized it was on until the moment I could endure no more:
- Be wary of home contractors, the #1 source of homeowner complaints for fraud
Well, maybe this technically falls under the heading “news”, but it’s obviously meant as a scare tactic to get your attention. The sound advice for avoiding being scammed? “Be sure to investigate your contractor with the Better Business Bureau, and ask for references.” Whew, thanks Channel 12! That was a close one.
- Blood Pressure and Health risks lower for married women than for single women
How is this news? “I didn’t really love him”, I imagine a formerly single young woman saying, “I just married him for the health benefits.” Of course, it IS news for those who fear dying alone—you won’t have to live with that fear for as long as you feared!
- 30% of people don’t wash their hands after using public restrooms
This is news? Not only does this qualify as common knowledge, but I am astonished the percentage is so low. I would have guessed the figure to be closer 70%. PLUS, this report on a local Oregon station was reporting on a cleanliness study of public restrooms in New York City! Perhaps it was presented as a travel tip?
- Ben and J-Lo call off the wedding
This “news” was in fact a report that “over 20 other sources were reporting that the wedding is off. No comment yet from either the Affleck or Lopez camps.” So this was actually a news report that there was a rumor! I wonder, does that report allow the next local news station to say “over 21 other sources are reporting…”? (By the way, who gives a $#*@ about these people?)
- Fantasy Video in Beaverton applying for a 24 hour license**
Their other branches, scattered throughout the city, are already open 24 hours. (I researched that by phone, but if you want to think otherwise, enjoy your giggle.) Thus, the “news” is, if you like porn and live in Beaverton, you might soon be saving money on gas…unless you continue to plan ahead and rent your adult vids before 10 PM.
But frankly, isn’t this story a big advertisement for Fantasy Video? “For those of you who didn’t know, the Fantasy Video in Beaverton, now open 10 AM to 10 PM featuring a huge variety of hardcore titles, wants to be open 24 hours.” I bet there are owners of Pearl District restaurants who were thinking, “Damn, if only I rented adult videos, I could change my hours and get free press for my Autumn menu.”
And finally, that week being the week of hurricane Isabelle,
- After these messages: Hurricane Isabelle is rocking the east coast—Are you footing the bill for people who live in high risk hurricane areas?
**For you out-of-town readers, No, I did not make up the fact that there’s a porn story set in “Beaverton”—it’s a real place.(My sincere apologies to John and Paul for taking liberties with their song lyric for my title)