FLOTSAM & JETSAM: WHERE'S THE NEWS GONE?
Let's put aside the issue of what's happening to the printed news media for a moment to deal with a more important question: where has the news gone?
Years ago, before the arrival of the Internet, I noticed a phenomenon around the middle of each June: the pile of mail arriving in our office suddenly declined.
The cause was fairly obvious: a drop off in news releases as public relations adjusted its efforts to the thermological nature of our culture. Which is to say, the warmer the weather, the less interested we are in what somebody else is trying to sell.
Then, of course, there's Thanksgiving and Christmas when many sorts of news disappear entirely. A foreigner arriving on such a day and watching TV could logically assume that we were a society with naught but violence and tragedy as the only visible hard news are accidents, murders and fires.
To a journalist, however, such occasions are reminders of how artificial and manipulated much news is. Over the past few months, I have begun to get that same holiday feeling about the news. Ever since Obama was inaugurated, hard news seems to have faded and we find ourselves in deep discussion over his daily activities, his wife's bare arms, other inanities and an amazing assortment of vagaries about what he is planning to do, appoint, go to, or talk about.
It is becoming ever harder to realize that we have recently added a new country to our Muslim war hit list, that job losses are increasing, that the budget is more out of balance than ever, that we will soon have as many troops in Afghanistan as we did in Vietnam in 1965, that banks are getting record subsidies while ordinary folk facing foreclosure or job loss are getting minimal aid, and that "health reform" is turning into a TARP program for insurance companies.
Since the media treated Obama as the Second Coming from the beginning, I suppose I shouldn't be too surprised about echoes of Christmas coverage, but all holidays have to come to end sometime. It would seem to be a good time for the media to go back to work.
While the media gave Bush a full pass on post 9/11 horrors like the Patriot Act, Gitmo and Iraq, the indifference to real news in the Obama administration extends far beyond matters of falsely purported national security. The lack of interest in Arne Duncan's planned interference in public school systems, the billions for first class high speed rail with little for coach class, rail freight or bus riders, and the highly dangerous medical records act have been left to a few eccentric journals like the Review to even mention. If the print media wants us to cry over its current problems, at least give us some real reporting to be sad at the thought of losing.
Instead, we have a media that falls without fail for various manipulations contrived by the White House, including covering each stage of an Obama decision as though it was new news, i.e.
"Obama is talking about. . . "
"Obama is consulting with. . ."
"Obama is reaching out to various groups. . . "
"Obama is planning to. . . "
"Obama is expected to announce on Monday that. . . "
And, finally, yet another repetitive front page story beginning, "Obama has announced. . . "
Not bad. A half dozen stories that lead you to an announcement that you can't quite figure out what it means anyway.
Which, of course, is intentional. Which is why we look forward to 3.5 million jobs created or "saved" by Obama, as the media treats the preservation of the status quo as news and a great achievement.
Or take the promised two trillion dollars saved by the health insurance industry over a ten year period. This in a media that doesn't even care who won the last American Idol.
As a general rule, political predictions of greater than two years should be banned entirely by the media. That might free up a little space to help people understand how we ended up in a war in Pakistan without any debate or congressional vote or when the subsidies of the Wall Street welfare fathers is going to end. After all, these were the guys who told us - with unquestioning support of the mainstream media - that free markets would take care of it all.
But as long as the media sees its role as Obama's Ryan Seacrest, it won't happen. It will just remain on a perpetual holiday.