Chapter 64: News I Can’t Use

Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic

Reads: 155
Comments: 2

Fifty years ago, the television news media made a real effort to remain neutral when reporting the issues of the day.  Reporters like Walter Cronkite and David Brinkley attempted to broadcast with no deliberate slant or subjective interpretation.  This allowed viewers to trust TV journalists when they reported the news.

Today, the networks have taken sides on most issues, as if they represent competing teams.  Only by watching several newscasts is it possible to decipher the actual facts.  Of course, this kind of sampling viewers must employ creates a kind of distorted view of the truth.  Eventually, viewers may watch the specific channel that reinforces their own views.  By then objectivity is sacrificed and viewers can become polarized in their ideology.

Despite this problem with the news, this particular composition focuses on the unintentional comedy that occurs in all kinds of news programs.  This humorous and often satirical element in the news can be discerned by examining common phrases that can be heard almost daily.  For example, twenty years ago, if someone was called “a person of interest” it often referred to a person who deserved a promotion or seemed important like a movie star.  Now a “person of interest” is defined as a suspect who probably committed a crime.  In the past, the term “possible suspect” meant a person who probably committed a crime.  I suppose the viewers are satisfied with either a “person of interest” or “possible suspect” because it suggests the police are hard at work on the case.  Nevertheless, the terms really aren’t synonymous even though they’ve merged in meaning.  In truth, the connotation for both has come to me “suspect.”

Another particularly deceiving set of phrases involves reporters pretending to go the extra distance to get the whole story.  For instance, nearly every time a corporation, a law breaker, or “a person of interest” has been accused of something, the reporter professes that he has been attempting to secure both sides of the story.  They exclaim, “we reached out to Mr. So-and-so at home, but he wouldn’t take our calls; or “he was unavailable for comment.”  I would suggest that if someone is accused of something, they won’t want to talk to the news media about 95% of the time.  Basically, the reporter picked up the phone and left a message.  Instead of rolling up his sleeves in order to discover both sides of the story, he simply made a thirty second phone call.  In addition, when the journalist reports that the individual didn’t respond to his calls, it makes Mr. So-and-so look even more guilty.  (If someone has nothing to hide, he’ll talk.  That is the underlying premise.)

Of course, there are other rather unethical tactics that the news reporters engage in to attract viewers.  For instance, occasionally morbid and violent footage will be shown.  Immediately before it airs, the viewers are warned that “the following footage might not be suitable for some viewers.”  There are several difficulties with this approach.  First, almost always, viewers will wait to see what that violence embraces.  The more negative something appears to be, the more people will probably want to see it. (i.e. fires, car accidents).  In addition, since the footage is shown a split second after the “warning,” children can’t get out of the way unless they are faster than the speed of sound, or if they are slower than an adult’s remote control.  What youngster wouldn’t peek at some violent news story that only adults are supposed to be able to handle?  The warning actually can also serve as a tease and not a caution.  Its unintended result may be to attract rather than to repel.

However, there exist other assertions that are employed on television by politicians that also seem disingenuous.  For instance, the phrases “American People” is often invoked, as if all of us are represented by the speaker’s views.  Actually, the speaker seems to be speaking to his constituents while also attempting to include possible future supporters.  I really wish there were one ‘American People” but in the last few years unity seems further away than ever.  Of course, “American Voters” seems somehow fresher than “American People,” but it actually applies to possible supporters who might vote for a specific politician.

Probably, the most insincere phrases of all have simply become a kind of reflex on television.  Phrases like “our hearts and prayers go out to them” and “I’m sorry for your loss” sound hollow.  I can’t believe that elected officials on the airwaves talk about “thoughts and prayers,” and then go home and pray.  “I’m sorry for your loss” also sounds rehearsed and flat.  The statement has been used so often it sounds almost like indifference.  It’s been said we live in an age where words and actions are the same thing.  In other words, speaking isn’t followed by action.

Finally, it’s hard to take seriously any politician on TV who talks about the need to “put food on the table.”  Most elected officials probably haven’t been forced to go hungry for even a few hours.  If the children and adults are hungry, we need to feed them.  It’s not enough to be verbally empathic for them.  As politicians state on TV when they’re not sure of an answer: “That’s an excellent question.”


Submitted: June 18, 2022

© Copyright 2022 John F Zurn. All rights reserved.

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Eddie Dee

I'm new to "Booksie" so this is the first thing I've commented on. It's the first thing I've read that is WORTH commenting on. I can't believe what people post that they think is good writing. Yours is interesting, makes valid points in a creative way, and exhibits that you've put some thought into what you express. I applaud this.

Sat, June 18th, 2022 3:48pm

John F Zurn

Eddie, Thank you for comments. This means a lot to me.

Sun, June 19th, 2022 7:57pm

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