Today, a conversation took on the topic of news and how it’s possible that, since very little of what hits the news is about good things, we’ve all come to believe that everything is bad. Yeah, that’s possible.
Putting them both together, I ask, has the news industry changed? Sure it has. And over the years, so has my own interpretation of the news changed.
When I was a kid in the 1960s, the newspaper came every day. For awhile, there was a morning addition and an evening addition, and if you were in town, another edition came out at noon. That didn’t last long. By the mid 1970s, it was just an evening paper that came, and by the time it was done morphing into whatever it morphed into, the evening paper came bright and early in the morning.
I never read the paper. It was all doom and gloom, even back then. Besides, nothing in the headlines visible ‘above the fold’ ever seemed to have anything to do with me. By the time I was a teenager, I started watching the Police Beat section to see if anyone I knew managed to get themselves arrested. One college course I took required a subscription to the NY Times. I had a pile of newspaper about waist high by the end of that semester, and not one had ever been opened.
The only news that broke through my resistance to it was the short previews as ads for the upcoming news hour between TV shows I was watching, or the minute-long newscast on the hour that came on my car radio.
I had no use for the news. All that terrible, horrible, bloody, gory, depressing stuff never had anything to do with me, so I stayed away from it. Why depress myself? Nothing in the news answered the questions I had like, “how does it all fit together?” and “what does the government do?” and “how does any of it affect me?”
Some time during my college years, my mind broke open. All that doom and gloom may not impact me directly, but it sure did hit the people I set out to work with, whether in education or social type work. So, I started paying attention to the news more and more as the years went by.
I jumped on the Internet when it first came into being back in the late 1980s. News was scarce, and none of it local, but it beat watching the blubbering talking-heads on the local news. When papers started putting up web sites, more news was to be had, but never the full print edition. Finally, the whole thing opened up with the news wires delivering via RSS.
Now, it’s information overload, and still, not a lot of it is local. It’s getting there, but it’s not there quite yet. Now the news is watered down. It’s more important, it seems, to spit out something every hour, even if it isn’t anything new, just the same stuff said a different way. Newspapers harvest this stream of output to regurgitate it all yet again. It’s sometimes obvious that no one researches the story, it’s just spun a different way. By the time it’s all said and done, it’s probably best to note that what you’re reading is someone’s version, and not exactly the facts of what happened.
That muddy mess – if it is a muddy mess and not just my imagination – makes it difficult to gauge the impact of reported events on my own little world and the people I work with. I still have no idea how it all fits together, no idea what the government really does and can only remotely guess how it’s all wreaking havoc with my life.
Well, maybe I’m taking it all wrong. Maybe I’m expecting from the news what the news isn’t. Maybe it’s telling me about things I have yet to learn to hear.
What do you think? What is the news to you? Do you get a dose of news every day? In what ways does the news affect your life?