Monday, July 21, 2014

Something to think about: Sick of the news

From page A4 | October 04, 2013 |

I am a reporter and I am sick of the news. More accurately, I am sick of how the news is created: people opening fire on other people, the Middle Eastern countries perpetually warring with their own people and everyone else, the hurricanes, wildfires, floods and earthquakes and Congress — that’s what creates the news. And I am tired of it.

Sometimes people criticize our paper because it has too many human interest stories; other people criticize it because there are too many stories about murder and crime on the front page. Maybe a story about a serial killer seeking redemption through his love of cats would be the only way to satisfy the critics.

Reporters don’t make the news — we hope — we just report it. I think our paper does a good job of balancing the stories between the worrisome, the informative and the inspirational, but we are a regional paper. News media that report national and world news appears to have less flexibility and more horror to work with.

If the national debt were smaller; if Congress was working together and responsive to the will of the people; if polar bears weren’t running out of ice; if homelessness was truly a temporary problem; if Americans weren’t obese; if China was environmentally conscious; if joblessness was a choice; if the three teens in Oklahoma had solved their boredom issue by helping out the elderly instead of gunning down a jogger, I’d probably like the news better.

We flew to Maryland on the day that the U.S. Naval Yard in Washington, D.C was the site of a mass shooting. We waited a few days before venturing to Washington to see the sights because of the investigation. I missed the blow-by-blow account of the shooting because I was changing planes and flying through the air. It’s probably horrible of me to admit this, but I don’t think I missed anything I needed to know.

While in Maryland I met a mortgage loan officer for Wells Fargo who said he stopped listening to and reading about the news because it was flavoring his days and not in a good way. This made things a little difficult, at times, because he was unaware of a murder that happened a block from his home and that police needed help in finding the killer, but it also allowed him to live his life and deal with his clients in a more positive way. After I beat him up about how poorly Wells Fargo and the rest of the big banks were handling mortgages, foreclosures and short sales, I could see that he needed all the positive attitude he could gather.

And there’s the rub: Whether it is better to be unaware and reasonably happy therein or to be overwhelmed with information, most of it worrisome. If the world were different, the news would be different, say some — maybe that is true, or maybe the world, and the nation, isn’t as messed up as it appears from the media.

If there were fewer wars, murders, crises and disasters to report, the media would have to spotlight more new discoveries, more medical breakthroughs, more instances of world collaboration and national cooperation, more stories about people helping other people. Is the seeming lack of balance in the national and world news because people want to know more about the bad things than the good things, or because there are more bad things happening in the world?

Maybe the man from Maryland has the right idea — to jump off the news wagon for a while and see what happens to your life. His ostrich-like approach might be unrealistic, but it might also be a way to see the world from your own perspective and to draw your own conclusions.

It’s interesting that while the news points out the dire job market and the awful economy, there are a lot of every day people whose own experience seems to be milder. They figure they must be very lucky. Maybe it’s just that the news leans too hard in one direction.

In China, 200 years ago, a change in ruler didn’t make much difference to the people not living in the capital. By the time the news traveled over the vast land and they heard about the death of one ruler and the ascension of another, years had passed and their lives were pretty much the same.

I’m not suggesting that we ignore the pain and suffering of others — I just wish there was less of it to hear about.

Wendy Schultz is a staff writer and columnist for the Mountain Democrat. Her column appears bi-weekly.







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