It’s hard to keep up with things today. Too many choices everywhere, from the toothpaste shelves at the store to the news sources hawking their questions.
More questions than answers. I used to look to the local paper and the 15-minute newscasts on radio and Baltimore TV stations for answers to the question about what went on in the world today.
Now, the hucksters of information are asking me: “When will Congress pass a bill that affects every American?”
“What did lawyers ask a Florida judge to do today?”
“When can you expect nine inches of rain in your neighborhood?”
I don’t know. You tell me, I say it to the TV, but the speaker is already gone and I am seeing another presentation on installing a new walk-in shower in my home for a price that leads to another question: How many months — years — would one be in debt?
The news “tease” is borrowed from the entertainment industry, particularly burlesque, where a shapely leg would emerge from behind a curtain and then disappear as the barker implores the audience to hang around because there’s more coming later. And later.
After the shower ad, which is disguised as “infotainment,” we have three lawyer ads, two auto dealers, one carpet cleaner and a cure for your blockage, illustrated. Still 15 minutes of news, but it takes half an hour.
Could we get to the news, please, I am muttering.
The lead story will most likely be about chaos, which is what a certain former president has cunningly chosen to use in place of campaigning for re-election. Why pay to get your name out there when there are so many developments in myriad ongoing indictments, pleas for court delays or transfers to Neptune or someplace like that?
Which, I insist, is what is wrong with the news today. Particularly broadcast news. I hesitate to call it journalism, because it is primarily a performance, with clowns and heroes and villains and damsels in distress and weasels masquerading as congressmen.
This guy Tommy Tuberville from Alabama, who is a committee chair, can do all by himself what no army in history has accomplished: He has erected a blockade that stops our Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard officers from being appointed and transferred or promoted.
Tuberville says he is doing it as a stand against abortion for military personnel. My take is that it’s another stunt for the No. 1 reason why any elected official would be so contrarian: Because he can. And he gets free publicity aired between the ads for toilet cleaners and health insurance.
I get most of my news from newspapers because the ads don’t jump onto the page from behind a curtain like the pop-ups on my computer. And I can turn a page without accidentally hitting some click-bait that will take me to never-go-there sites.
There’s more depth here, too. Room for context.
Television news, aside from the insufferable advertising, is plagued by management that overvalues entertainment and personalities of reporters over the skills of journalists.
I grumble when a news source is constantly interrupted by a reporter. Ask the question, let them answer. If they wander into the weeds of questionable credibility, ask more valid questions and listen to answers. Twice this week, I caught a TV field reporter ask a question the person interviewed had just answered.
Computer news sites are worse than TV, really, because there are hundreds of them, all dressed up in false fronts of respectability. Too many play with no rules of conduct at all. It’s all about grabbing an audience by the eyeballs and facts be damned. Check your sources.
I would snicker at the earnestness of the saviors of morality who don’t want kids to learn about the world from library books or even legitimate history curricula, but I know that much of that earnestness is as calculated as that of TV hucksters with creams that will hide your flaws.
Our flaws create vulnerabilities that make it all too easy to manipulate the masses with propaganda.
Dean Minnich writes from Westminster.