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When Did The Evening News Become The 24/7 Conjecture?

GREAT ASCENT WITH GREATER DESCENT

There has been much marvelous advancement in broadcast journalism since I came into this world. At that time, we only had a console radio in our home. When I was a toddler, we got our first black-and-white TV but we could only get reception from one local TV station. By the time I was old enough to start paying attention to the news, we were able to receive broadcasts from local affiliates of the three major TV networks, as well as a weak signal from an independent station in another city. In the past 50 to 60 years, technological improvement has been phenomenal and the sources to choose from have increased by several orders of magnitude. However, as has been glaringly obvious lately, along the way, a key element of the news has been frighteningly perverted, if not lost. That key element is, simply, the reporting of the news. “Back in the day”, you could count on the fact that when you tuned in to news programs, like The CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite, you would just get the known details of that day’s current events. That seemed worthwhile and productive. Today, to a great degree, news reporting has become lost in a nearly endless supply of conjecture. This seems, at least counterproductive, if not dangerously destructive.

NO VALUE

The current coverage of the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 is, by far, the clearest example of this decline in broadcast journalism. I think Politico summarized the “not worthwhile” aspects of this well with an article entitled “Rush Limbaugh slams plane media ‘show’”. I’m not a “Ditto Head”. I very rarely listen to Limbaugh these days. But, I think he hit the nail on the head in saying,

“We’ve got anchors and anchorettes who don’t know beans about even why an airplane flies. They couldn’t explain the concept of air pressure differential or lift to you if their jobs depended on it. They go get guests, and nobody knows what happened here, so you got a bunch of people on TV who just want face time.”

DIMINISHED VALUE

Beyond Limbaugh’s “not worthwhile” points, there have been many instances where the coverage of this story has fallen into the category of “counterproductive, if not dangerously destructive”. Some of the current theories on why this flight has gone missing include:

  • Some incident led to the crew, or perhaps all on board, being rendered unconscious. The plane continued to fly until it ran out of fuel and it went down, most likely at sea.
  • Terrorism – The plane went down in a failed attempt.
  • Terrorism – The plane landed, to be used in a future attempt.
  • Hijacking – For some cargo on board.
  • Hijacking – For some person/s on board.
  • Crew suicide.
  • Some nation’s military mistakenly shot it down.
  • Struck by a meteor.
  • Taken by space aliens.
  • Sucked into a black hole.

ADDED VALUE

Now, I won’t say that none of this speculation has been interesting to me. It has, and I understand that it’s interesting to others too. But, beyond entertainment value, what does it accomplish. I don’t see it adding to solving the mystery. With the resources that our nation and dozens of other nations have dedicated to solving this mystery, I assume that it will be solved, if possible. The current press coverage adds nothing to that and in fact, it can detract by making it necessary for those seeking a solution to divert their attention in response to the press. Also, publicizing weaknesses that could be exploited by terrorists or hijackers or the suicidal doesn’t aid the experts doing the searching. It’s more likely to result in encouraging others with ill intent to carry out their evil plans. And, if I was among those who buy into meteor or space alien or black hole theories, I wouldn’t need the encouragement of the press to put on my tin-foil hat and head for my bunker in Northern Idaho. Moreover, I see none of this as bringing comfort to the loved ones of the crew and passengers who were aboard Flight 370. In my view, our society would be much better served by the media if they would limit themselves to, simply, reporting the known details of current events and applying enough true journalism to assure that all with related responsibility are held to account. If that was the case, I’d be completely comfortable in knowing what’s going on in the world and that all that can be done about a particular occurrence is being done. Furthermore, the resources that are currently being wasted on conjecture could be turned towards other issues that are just as important, if less titillating.

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Above Reproach

Christie Press CongerenceThis past Thursday, in addressing a scandal in his administration, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie conducted himself in a way I’d like to see emulated by every government official. Not surprisingly, political pundits are weighing in with their views on various ramifications of this crisis. The impact of this on Christie’s potential 2016 run for U.S. President seems to be chief among these observations. I believe it’s thanks to this mentality, fomented by the press and how this influences government officials (especially the elected ones), that forthright behavior, like this example of Governor Christie’s, has become so rare in our public office holders.

A little over six years ago, in an article entitled Honest Politician , I discussed the sad reality that this term, Honest Politician, is accepted as an oxymoron in America. This is a key reason why, since that time, I’ve chosen to withdraw from my once fairly active role in politics. However, that decision was based on what I saw happening throughout the political spectrum, not just at the national level. In fact, the “straws that broke the camels back” in my case came more from experiences in local politics. And, to a great degree, they involved individuals I’ve supported, who I thought were well aligned with my views. It’s not that I expected perfection from these individuals but I did expect that, when blunders were made, they would own up to them. Sadly, what I saw were some really bone-headed decisions being made and these were accompanied by a complete unwillingness to admit to any errors in judgment. Added to this was the disappointment of seeing those with whom I’d placed my trust being willing to associate with anyone who could offer them some political advantage, no matter how despicable the ally is otherwise. Frankly, I just got to a point where I could no longer stomach having any part in this.

So, maybe American politicians are getting what they deserve with “Honest Politician” being accepted as an oxymoron. But, what about the American public, are we getting what we deserve? I have to say, “I think so.” One of the most recent glaring examples of this was having President Obama repeatedly state, “We will keep this promise to the American people. If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor. Period. If you like your healthcare plan, you will be able to keep your healthcare plan. Period.” He, clearly, knew this wasn’t true every time he said it and yet he hasn’t owned up to that. Furthermore, he’s taken no corrective action regarding the circumstances that led him to do something so foolish and harmful to so many. I’ve been encouraged that, in response to this, according to recent CNN/ORC polling, a growing majority of Americans are finding President Obama to not be trustworthy or honest. But, let’s not forget, it hasn’t been that long since we twice-elected an adulterous Presidential Candidate who dodged the culpability of his philandering by questioning the meaning of what the word “is” is. And yet, instead of mocking and rejection, many still regard him as a heroic figure.

If we are getting what we deserve in this regard, I say, “It doesn’t have to remain that way.” When you think about it, we’re actually getting what we are letting ourselves deserve. So, I say, “Let’s change that!” Let’s stop putting up with American politicians dodging the truth by letting them debate what the meaning of the word “is” is. Let’s stop accepting allegory, as an excuse for not being genuine. And, by all means, let’s continue to express skepticism with things that don’t seem credible. But, shouldn’t we, at least, allow the possibility of an American politician saying what they mean and meaning what they say? If we don’t, what is their incentive to do so? Moreover, shouldn’t we be demanding this of our politicians instead of just accepting that, in our nation, “Honest Politician” is an oxymoron? By doing so, I think we end up deserving better and thus, getting better. So, whether or not you endorse any other thing about Chris Christie, I say it’s to our benefit to laud him for his courageous handling of the current scandalous crisis in his administration.

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