Thursday, July 24, 2014

Breaking News!

Recently, I scrolled through the 'news' on several different sites. Clearly, I have a very different idea of what constitutes news. News used to refer to important events that touched the lives of the general public in some significant way. There were specific categories for news stories.

1. Someone died. Usually, this was someone famous, an individual who had contributed significantly to the public. Presidents, Nobel Prize winners, and a sprinkling of politicians, activists, doctors, authors, and very important celebrities were in this category.

2. A LOT of people died/were injured. Plane, train, and multiple car crashes plus the odd sinking ship were in this category. Also civilian explosions such as grain silos or warehouses.

3. A LOT of people died/were injured. War coverage. There isn't a lot you can say to expand on this category. War is war is war, regardless of where it takes place or who is fighting. There is no such thing as a safe, bloodless war. This also includes terrorist attacks.

4. A loss of property. Fires, both domestic and forest. Hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, tsunamis, and earthquakes. And of course, all too frequently, people died. Sometimes, a lot of people died.

5. Significant political scandals. A lot of people forget that political scandals are not a modern invention. They've been around as long as there have been politicians. And that's a really long, long time. Power and the subsequent abuse of that power go hand in hand.

6. Murder. When I was younger, only the most heinous crimes made the news. Serial killers were rare. Multiple murders were rare. At least, we thought they were. The first multiple murders I remember reading about were the Richard Speck murders. They were incredibly shocking. I'm not sure folks would be nearly as stunned today.

7. Important medical news. Polio, HIV, Aids, cancer. The public need to know was the driving force behind such coverage. The information didn't have to be accurate, you understand. Just sensational. When we moved into the era of HIV, abortion, and birth control, this category was more often politicized than informational.

8. Stories of NATIONAL IMPORTANCE. Landing on the moon. The space walk. Presidential Inaugurations. Election coverage.  

What's missing? Celebrity stuff. That wasn't news. It was reported in rags like the National Enquirer. Inquiring minds want to know. Unless it was an incredibly messy scandal, it wasn't part of the news. The news guys were serious. The general public trusted them (whether they should have or not) and frivolous stories were quite rare.

TV information was printed in TV Guide. Movie information was in the newspapers and movie mags. Book news was in special columns in the newspapers.  And commercial 'news' was confined to commercials, not fake news articles, thinly disguised as news.

Most importantly, to my mind, private information was private. Folks didn't share personal information with their neighbors, let alone the international community. I appreciate the availability of information we have now with the Internet. But I wish, really wish, the news media would stick to actual news. I wish the weather folks would stick to the weather. If I want a general interest story...I'm perfectly capable of finding one. 

*For the curious...the photo is my mother and my grandparents, circa 1932.

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