Before my husband and I were married, we were both students who went to school on opposite sides of the United States. Having been there for about two years before he visited me, I suppose that I had become accustomed to certain things.
Like subway muggings, bodega robberies, building collapses, murders and “accidental” shootings. All of which was regular fodder for the evening news.
A lot of what makes up the news can be the recounting of someone else’s tragedy, but when, during his visit, the news anchor announced that a baby stroller had been run over by a car that day, he’d just about had it.
And coming from an island where (back then), such things were the exception and not the norm, he made me realize that I’d actually become immune to the bad news, so much so that I wasn’t even hearing the sirens anymore.
Not much has changed since then. Bad news continues to sell papers and other information is merely used as filler. Startling headlines have become the thing to do, so now everybody’s doing it.
Take our local paper, for instance. On the day after a murder, shooting or robbery, you had better get your copy early if you want to read the story at all. It doesn’t matter if the details are sketchy, few or non-existent, the account will be read and re-read as if for clues.
If there’s a slow news day, you can be sure that a topic can be found – any topic at all – and it can be given a twist, because a really good journalist can make a controversy out of thin air.
Or an interview can be booked with a particular personality, but when nothing noteworthy is being said, the radio host may decide to cold call a person well known for having an opposing view and have him or her join in… and wait for the fireworks to begin.
I’ve heard some interviews where the reporter refuses to get bogged down with asking a question even though some of the things that the subject was saying made absolutely no sense. Because the sound bite was invented for a reason.
Does the story make the country look bad? No matter, because people deserve to know the truth and not be regaled with fairy tales. The people bringing you the news don’t ever want to be accused of giving anybody a false sense of security.
Even a read of some of the court reporting has me giving the guilty person the benefit of the doubt. Although in that case, I don’t think that they’re trying to enhance the story necessarily – they’re just a little loose with the actual facts.
Blogger alliepotts wrote about an Australian TV station that had a programme dedicated to reporting only happy news. She didn’t know whether it was still on the air, but it was probably a response to bad news fatigue that all of us experience at some point.
Now the “feel good” story is a regular feature of most newscasts. Usually at the end. Because even the bringers of bad news have to sign off with a smile.