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September 1, 2011 by wcobserver

“Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”  Thomas Jefferson, 1787

To be fair… the New York Daily News wasn’t around in the late 1700’s… so let’s cut him some slack. He didn’t really know what he was saying. Although, today he might take one look at either and throw in the towel on the whole hot mess.

With that said, I have a confession to make. I don’t read the newspaper. Ok… I read this one… sometimes. But I only read this one because it’s local and that’s the kind of news that might actually affect me from time to time. For instance, if city workers go on strike and my trash isn’t going to be picked up for two weeks, well I’d like to know about it, and that’s not something I can read in The New York Times… that is, unless my city was Manhattan.

If the mayor of West Fork (just as an example) started requiring local school kids to say “Grace” over their cafeteria fish sticks, that’s not going to be on CNN, but I can still read about it in the Washington County Observer. Although, now that I think about it, that’s probably a bad example, because nothing rocks the world of the media muckety-mucks quite like small town America praying in schools. Wolf Blitzer and Anderson Cooper would be down here looking for answers like a couple of overwrought housewives at a coffee klatch.

But by and large, newspapers and, especially televised news has gotten away from providing the information that actually makes a difference to average people in their daily lives.

In fact, I lovingly refer to the news as the death and destruction report… and you know what? I can live without that. It’s not that I enjoy being uninformed. On the contrary, I could bury my head in the sand until I hit China, and I still wouldn’t be able to avoid the really big stuff.

My attempts at escapism will always be thwarted by “breaking news stories,” that interrupt pleasingly benign tv like Wheel of Fortune. And even if I can bypass that, the world is full of people who are just dying to be the bearers of bad news. Five different people, some of whom I’d never met before, informed me that Beebee was littered with the carcasses of 3000 dead birds on New Year’s Eve this year. So believe me, if I ​need to know something, I’m fairly confident that I’ll eventually know it.
Call me a simpleton if you will. But I want to hear about the 5oth anniversary of the local sewing circle that still makes its own quilts, or the old-timer who’s still making… say… his own private label moonshine. In a local paper, I’d probably even be lucky enough to get his address.

It’s not that I’m disinterested in the world around me. I’m just disinterested in the version presented by the media pinheads trying to fill up 30-minute blocks of time or enough newsprint to justify the ad space. I just find that I’m much happier when I’m free from all the banter, opinions and wild speculation that falls under the loose category we call “news” these days.
So there it is. It’s my dirty little secret. I hate to reveal the truth, but… were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to say… who cares? I’m headed out for a hamburger… and if I’m lucky, I might even run across that guy with a little local moonshine.

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