Monday, April 22, 2013

Week of 04/22/2013

The Same Five Sentences
– by David Matthews 2

I’ve learned to do something that people in power don’t want me to do.

I’ve learned to love silence.

If there is ever a reason to turn off the television set, it’s not long after something bad happens.  Get the basic information; the who, what, when, where, and how… and then turn it off.  Turn off the TV set.  Turn the whole thing off.  Put on some music or otherwise just enjoy the bliss of silence.

Why, you ask?

Simple.  Because of the media and their fetish of repeating the same five sentences.

Tragedy happens, like the terrorist bombing of the Boston Marathon, and the media uses it as the justification to interrupt our lives for hours on in.  They barrage us endlessly with talk about the tragedy, the number of lives lost, the number of those injured or missing, the damage caused, even rumors and theories become supposedly “breaking news”.

And for the hours upon hours of time spent on tragic events, they waste most of it repeating themselves over and over and over again.  The same five sentences, over and over and over again, told by different people, rehashed from different viewpoints, and then once again repeated “in case you just tuned in”.

Mind you, I’m not talking about the cable news channels like CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News, where they live for nothing but breaking news and have no qualms repeating the same things over and over and over again.  They need something to happen in order to fill their 24/7 news schedule.  In fact one might say that they were created for this kind of regurgitated news.

No, I’m talking about the mainstream networks of ABC, NBC, Fox, and CBS.  The national networks with all sorts of scheduled programming that now gets sacrificed because of something that happened hours ago.

It’s one thing to have something fluid, like the events of 9/11, or some of the military activity from either the Gulf War or the Iraq War.  Not too many people would dispute the need for the media to provide urgent information to the public in those situations.

But of late the mainstream media news divisions have decided to go above and beyond simply providing the basic information before turning things back to our regularly-scheduled programs.  They’ve turned “breaking news” into excuses to sabotage whole hours of commercial time.

The great “Boston Manhunt” of April 19th is the best example of this.  Both ABC and NBC took it upon themselves to sacrifice literally a whole day’s worth of programming to cover the supposed “lockdown” of Boston while police searched for the bombing suspect.  Continual coverage over what happened in Boston and that people need to stay indoors and that nothing is open and how empty the streets are.  Well, not really empty, because you had search parties, and of course the media out giving street-by-street assessments of how “empty” things are and how urgent it is for people (not including themselves of course) to stay indoors.

Ironically it was someone that was sick and tired of being held hostage in his own home by the city and the media that led to the discovery of the wanted bombing suspect.  Imagine that: a modest act of defiance to the fear-mongering of the media led to the end of the lockdown.

But the question is why did ABC and NBC decide to waste their whole day talking endlessly about this lockdown, rehashing the same five sentences over and over and over again?  There was nothing new happening, and if there was, they could have always broken in to report it.  Events are cancelled, stores are closed, schools are closed, businesses are closed, people are in their homes, the police are looking for the bad guy, nothing new to report, and there was no reason to justify holding their own viewers hostage all day.

And it’s not just the national networks that are doing this!  The local media here in Atlanta have also taken it upon themselves to drag out news stories obscenely long after their “breaking news” status has expired.

WXIA here in Atlanta, the local NBC affiliate, decided to take a local story of two children caught up in a carjacking and perpetually regurgitate the same five sentences over and over and over again.  The children were found, thankfully, but WXIA’s news people took it upon themselves to hijack the viewers and stay on that story over and over and over and over again, supposedly so they could catch the mother being reunited with her children.

The same video footage over and over and over again of the school where the stolen car was found, the same video footage of the road where the carjacking reportedly happened, the same reporters repeating the same five sentences over and over and over again, lather, rinse, repeat.

And they never did get that footage of the mother being reunited with her children!  WXIA held their viewers hostage for nothing!  Just an endless, nauseating regurgitation of the same five sentences with the news anchor slowly turning the story into a religious sermon.

Now imagine you’re a local businessperson who paid good money to have your commercials appear at a certain time of the day.  That money is now wasted for the day because the news division decided to regurgitate stagnant news for no reason other than for ego-gratification.  Would you want to continue doing business with that kind of station?

Okay, now imagine that being spread nation-wide.  Well, you don’t really have to imagine that, do you?  That is what ABC and NBC did on April 19th.  They wasted a whole day with stagnant news for something that pertained only to Boston.  The Boston Marathon bombing suspect wasn’t in New York, or Miami, or Tucson, or Cleveland, or Portland, or Dallas, or Charlotte, or Las Vegas, or Los Angeles, or Honolulu, or Anchorage.  It was the news divisions of those two national networks that decided all by themselves that it should involve all of those cities and everyplace in between.  They held their viewers and their paying sponsors hostage for much of the day over stagnant news.

Now you know why I’ve come to appreciate silence of late.

Let’s get brutally honest here… there is no excuse for the media, either regional or national, to hold their viewers hostage with stagnant news.  It’s one thing if the story is fluid.  If events are still happening and the story continues to evolve, then, by all means, keep going.  But if you’re repeating the same five sentences over and over and over again, then you need to wrap it up and save the rest for the six o’clock news.

Because what the major networks have been engaging in at that point is not news.  It’s misery pornography.

Unfortunately there’s no real remedy that we the viewers can employ other than to simply turn off the TV and radio when the media gets fixated on regurgitation.  And it’s not easy, because it’s just as hard to turn off the TV in the middle of so-called “breaking news” as it is to look away from a car accident, but still it must be done.

News has a fast expiration date.  “Breaking” news, even faster.  But only those in the media are concerned as to whether or not that news is “fast”.  The rest of us simply want it to be accurate and honest.  And if you’re repeating the same five sentences over and over again, then the news isn’t “breaking”; nor at that point is it “news”. 

At that point, the only thing that really makes sense… is silence.

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