Though I don’t have TV in Vermont, sometimes when I visit my mom in Chicago she has on the nightly news. Have you ever watched the network nightly news in America? It goes a little something like this:
News Anchor 1: A tragic and terrible thing happened. Here is a firsthand witness.
Firsthand Witness: It was awful.
News anchor 1: Thank you, Firsthand Witness. Back to the studio.
News Anchor 2: We have breaking news of an over-sensationalized, actually unimportant thing. Here’s what our Expert Commentator has to say.
Expert Commentator: This is outrageous. The American public will be shocked and upset.
News Anchor 2: Scandalous!
Weatherperson: Weather weather weather.
News Anchor 1: Celebrity gossip.
News Anchor 2: Unfounded claim.
News Anchor 1: Biased assertion.
News Anchor 2: Blatant lie.
I have watched the NBC local and national news only to turn to a publicly-funded channel’s showing of the BBC news and discover that multiple international crises and historic events occurred that NBC never even mentioned. Instead, they discussed the length of Princeton University and Harvard Law School graduate Michelle Obama’s shorts.
I recently visited my darling mother and was aghast to learn that all the news shows have been discussing Tiger Woods’ extramarital affairs. I do not see how this is anyone’s business besides Tiger’s and his family’s. And if people do want to hear about it, shouldn’t they be doing so on a gossip blog or in a tabloid, not on the nightly news? Do Americans really care more about a celebrity’s sex life than an earthquake in China or rampant war and poverty in Africa?
Unfortunately, I think the answer might be yes. Or perhaps people just don’t know where to find news with real substance and integrity. Admittedly, it is hard to know where to turn these days. In fact, in researching this post I came across the following explanation for the controversy over Michelle Obama’s shorts in a Time magazine article: ‘the truth is, she just didn’t look particularly good in shorts.’ Dear god.
But there is hope. The New York Times, the BBC, and NPR for the most part report an international scope of unbiased, unsensationalized news, though I have read and heard disappointingly trivial and melodramatic things from each of them on at least one occasion.
As citizens of this world, I think we owe it to the planet and to each other to respectfully learn factual information about current events. There’s nothing wrong with fun reads and silly TV shows, I just don’t think they should be our main source of news about the world. So go head, surf on over to the New York Times or the BBC. Let us know if you’re surprised by what you learn.