Thursday, June 19, 2014

News Burnout

ABC Television Promotional Photograph of Ron Cochran presenting the news program Ron Cochran and the News
Subject: BC Television Promotional Photograph of Ron Cochran presenting the news program "Ron Cochran and the News" | Date: 01/31/1953 | Photographer: ABC TV | This work is in the public domain in that it was published in the United States between 1923 and 1977 and without a copyright notice.
"There's a local paper rolled up in a rubber band,
One more sad story's one more than I can stand,
Just once, how I'd like to see the headline say,
Not much to print today can't find nothing bad to say,
Nobody robbed a liquor store on the lower part of town,
Nobody OD'd, nobody burned a single building down,
Nobody fired a shot in anger...nobody had to die in vain,
We sure could use a little good news today."
~ "A Little Good News" by Anne Murray, August 1983

A good friend recently informed me she had watched her last news broadcast.  She said that within a five minute span she learned a manager of a KFC kicked out 3 year old girl, because her facial scars, from a pit bull attack, were too grotesque looking and radio icon, and voice of Shaggy, Casey Kasem died at age 82.  Before that, she had been inundated for days with rehashings of the recent Reynolds High School shooting and reports that John McCain, and other legislators, want us to go back to war in Iraq.

I can't blame her for being discouraged by the abundance of negativity being broadcast by the news.  We seem to be flooded with stories of cruelty, death, tragedy, and loss on a daily basis.  Heck, with so many rumors of war filling the airwaves, I often wonder if John wasn't catching glimpses of CNN when he penned Revelations.

It's hardly a new phenomenon either; Anne Murray was singing about the trend thirty years ago.  Before her, Sidney Lumet was mad as hell, and wasn't going to take this anymore, and made a movie about the subject.

As I write this, today's news stories are:
"Iraq asks for U.S. air power," "Texas Republicans call for repealing the Voting Rights Act," "Iraqi militants claim mass executions," "George Will trivializes sexual assault," and "Sheriff's deputy sought crazed vengeance after his car is egged by teens."

I can't blame my friend for feeling bombarded with depressing news stories.  There's a very real temptation to shut out national & global concerns, and to focus on our own microcosm.  It's tempting to tell ourselves, "I'm busy enough making sure my kids pass algebra and have three meals a day.  I don't need to care about what's happening in Washington D.C. and Iraq."

While I understand that way of thinking, and am often tempted by it myself, I can't help but remember the words of Ben Franklin.  "It is the common fate of the indolent to see their rights become a prey to the active.  The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt."

In other words, if we don't pay attention we deserve what we get.  He was right.  Not keeping track of the news deprives us from knowing which politicians want to cut food stamps & healthcare, who wants to send our soldiers oversees & why, and how our climate is changing.  Trapping ourselves within tiny spheres of global ignorance robs us of the ability to advocate for issues and vote in an intelligent way.

As much as I understand the appeal of blocking out the news of the world, the price of such bliss is simply too high.

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