“Good evening Mr. and Mrs. America and all the ships at sea.” Each night, all of America sat around the radio waiting to hear Edward R. Murrow bring them the news of the day. Accurate, hard-hitting important stories that could not wait for the next day’s papers. Information that was used by leaders, captains of industry and family men to make important decisions.
When we heard Walter Cronkite speak we knew we were viewing living history. The Kennedy assassination, the moon landing, reports from the front lines of Viet Nam all went from the TV screen directly into the biography of humanity.
The Fifth Estate was a proud profession built on accuracy, trust and integrity. Now it’s more like a vacant lot built on conjecture, scandal and the drive for ratings. A Nigerian used car salesmen with a speech impediment gives more useful and accurate information.
In Murrow’s day, news was available from limited sources at only designated times. Thus only the most important information passed through that very small pipe. Now we have 24 hour cable news channels, web sites, blogs, text alerts, satellite radio- so many sources of news that we get reports on two-headed calves and the world’s fastest pancake flipper.
In this morass of information with this much competition, the battle for ratings is tough. There is not enough news to go around. I mean, everyone is reporting on those boorish Iranians getting ready to start a nuclear war in the name of Allah.
News outlets need something different, something fresh, something that will hold the interest of people who watch South Park and America’s Top Pizza Maker. The media has become a circus to rival Barnum and Bailey’s and the reporters are the clowns. I love the tricks that they perform.
Take the much lauded “live, on the scene report.” The reporter is live but it’s the scene of the something that happened hours ago. You get to see some finely quaffed talking face trying to convey the urgency and seriousness of the event. Behind them you see two cops leaning on their car having a smoke and neighborhood kids waving and making stupid faces. Why does standing in front of a house or in an intersection make the report so much more informative than sitting behind a desk and showing footage from the actual event?
Along with the “what happened so long ago the funeral is over” reports are the “what could happen” non event stories.
One evening a Jet Blue airliner took off. Upon leaving the ground, its nose wheel twisted 90 degrees. A minor thing to an experienced pilot but a huge source of entertainment value for the news outlets. And, fortunately for them, the pilot had to fly in circles for a couple of hours to burn off fuel before he could make an emergency landing.
So for three hours people around the world watched a plane flying in circles and listened to media airheads who knew as much about flying as a bird knows about deep sea diving. “There are 47 passengers and crew aboard. Everyone seems to be okay up to this point.” Why wouldn’t they be? The problem was with the landing gear not the flying gear.
It was hilarious watching these insults to journalistic intelligence try to keep people interested in watching a plane flying in circles while they secretly hoped for a fiery crash. It would be a ratings coup. They would get mileage out of the for months. A parade of “experts” with degrees from a university behind a Jiffy Lube would give their pious opinions. Panels would be formed to discuss what the administration should to alleviate future wheel tragedies. There would be in-depth biographical stories on the boring lives of the dead people. Politicians would be pandered to with free air time to state what they were going to do to protect the American people from tire-related tragedies; The media could even make a cool catch phrase and a logo. “Tragedy on Flight 308: the Landing Gear of Death.” Cue the dramatic music. But it would all be worthless if no one was watching. They had to keep viewers on the hook.
“You know Bob, there is a nuclear power plant just 750 miles from here. If that plane should veer off course and crash into it, it would kill millions off people.”
“True but, even if the plane makes it back to airport, the flash of the explosion could give away our location to aliens and trigger a planetary invasion.”
Of course, what everyone expected happened. The plane landed, there was a little smoke, some sparks and the plane came safely to a stop. But did the reporters give up?
“Barely averting a tragedy that could haven ended 47 lives, Jet Blue flight 308 sits smoldering on the runway. Passengers and crew are wondering at the miracle that kept them alive.” Actually they were probably wondering how they were going to get to Piscataway.
There are endless examples of the media creating stories out of nothing, catering to fear and puking out sensationalist crap that would embarrass the Enquirer. The once proud profession of Journalism has fallen in stature to a level just below “whore.” The Fifth Estate has become a third-rate sitcom.
From Nancy Grace’s faux obnoxiousness to Britney’s crotch, I think we all realize what a joke reporting the news has become. However, even I had not realized how laughable the spelling and grammar error-ridden spew had become until I read this overdone attempt at being edgy:
“Autopsy Shows Michael Jackson in Good Health at Time of Death”
Good night, Mr. and Mrs. America.