The Nature of the News Beast



Downtown Brazil in the 40s

When I was little, I remember sitting at the dinner table many an evening with my grandparents.  Yes, here she goes again talking about her grandparents.  No apologies here.  It’s the nature of storytelling, isn’t it?  To go back to what grounds us.


Anyway, dinner time always had a rhythm.  Grandma cooked, we ate and watched the evening news, Grandpa and Julie washed and dried the dishes.  This was routine.  Steady.  The norm. My scope, however, narrows today to just the middle part of that: the timing of what we did and when the news was on those many moons ago.  My grandparents, like most folks, watched it every evening at the same time.  And there’s something calming about steady consistency.  You could always count on the television being on for the evening news and an extra long morning in the recliner reading that thick Sunday paper.


I’m here to publicly mourn the loss of this rhythm.  We now have news media details shoved down our throats faster than we can suck air into our lungs.  It’s everywhere.  And we have somehow allowed ourselves to become the new-age version of Pavlov’s Dog.  DING!!! A notification! Automatically our brain gets its rewards and we essentially have shouted “SQUIRREL!!”   I am as guilty as the next guy.

The problem is, these instant notifications/gratifications/whatevers happen all day long.  We have come to know everything about everyone.  For example, we all know that Brad and Angelina are getting the big “D”, don’t we?  This is terribly sad.  Awful, in fact.  This is a family going through a very emotional time.  But, I also find it terribly sad to actually KNOW about it.  I don’t know these people personally.  I can in no way help their situation.  But, I knew about it the day Angelina filed and so did the rest of the world.  This is not our news to know, people!


Kim K. was last assaulted in Paris last week.  I’m sure you saw it somewhere.  This is horrible and terrifying for her.  It’s most certainly not something to joke about, but also not the type of news that I need to see in major headlines.  You get me?  Some of you right here have signed up for e-mail notifications for this very blog.  (Hey, thanks for that!  #shamelessplug) But, I don’t expect you to drop everything and run just because I hit the publish button and you received an e-mail.


Do you see how this has become a problem?  There’s no rhythm anymore to how and when we receive information.  Our brains need processing time and the media gives us none.  We are bombarded constantly with tiny tidbits of information – whatever they can find – continuously.   We have got to become better moderators of when and how we receive that.


Another problem:  Are you ready?  News media is a business that must run daily.  So to understand the size and scope of things, you have to take a step back and acknowledge that some days there are stories that truly matter and some days that they are just trying to fill the page.  And unfortunately, trash gossip is in high demand.   The devastation in Aleppo deserves headlines.  Human trafficking deserves headlines.  Yes, parts of the election deserves headlines.  (I could spin a whole other piece off of that, but we won’t go there today.)  These are valid issues of huge importance.  Hollywood scandals do not deserve the attention they receive.  That fight between T. Swift and Katie Perry – yeah, not so important.   But, many times they get equal if not greater attention than the real shiz out there needing our attention.  That, my friends, is the nature of the business and the beast.    That is what deserves a big ol’ facepalm.  Everybody… on the count of 3!


Seriously though.  In my opinion, this has severely shallowed the depths of our thinking.  We try to keep up with too much and have become a society of “squirrels”.  It’s time to narrow the scope.  Refocus your lens.  FILTER!!  And allot yourself specific times to take in the vastness of what is out there.  Bring back a rhythm.  I’m no longer in the world of doing the dishes with my grandfather, but I am still in charge of my own time and how I use it.  I’ve got to get better about paying attention to what’s important, as do we all.


As for the election and all of its ugly coverage, I’m still chewing leather like many of you.  This month means a lot of reflecting for all of us.  But, at the end of the day, 4 years is only 4 years.  We personally still have to do our own work for the greater good.  I’ve said it before and will again:  the importance of this election is how we react to it.  Hopefully with the dignity and grace this country deserves.  There is a temporary nature to the whole shebang, after all.  “This, too, shall pass.”


Peace and Monkey Grease.




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