Thursday, 11 November 2010

The News Today

I walked in on my dad last night. He was doing it again: watching the main evening news. Generally, when I hear the bullet-spray beat of the terrorising intro music, I dive for a safe corner. I dread to see those stern faced harbingers of doom (reporters) sensationalising reality for the worse.

In fact, if I were to take a no-holds-barred shot at expressing my disdain for the news, I’d say this: I abhor it in full awareness of how strong a word abhor actually is.

I just don’t think it helps anyone’s mental health. It provokes, aggravates, shocks and startles – because hat’s what it’s designed to do. I earned a Masters in journalism a couple of years ago. A chief condition of that award was my demonstration of an understanding of the art of news making. Man, was that a slog. I mean, besides a shrink, who wants to understand madness?

I sat pale faced as I listened to lecturers explain to us – as though it were a noble art – how to shock the socks off people.  Points were awarded for adding a ‘shock factor.’ “This is what the people want,” we were told. Our seniors told us, in no uncertain terms, that fear and awe were the most important components of news journalism. They told us to occasionally mix the horror with heart warming animal stories. “People like animals too,” the sages would say. Notice how after subjecting you to war and violence and corruption, reporters will flick to daisy the dolphin in Florida who can flip right through a tiny plastic ring. It’s insulting.

Well, they didn’t persuade me to follow their write-by-numbers approach to news. I couldn’t and still can’t be persuaded to make people miserable, which is why I’m blogging and writing fiction with my time. Thing is, I’d prefer to make my world up as I go along. I figure that if it’s all going to be plucked from the ether, I’d prefer to do the plucking myself rather than have someone else do it for me. That way, I at least get to smile a few times a day instead of passively listening to people tell me the world is ending.

Funny story about my sister Jen:

When Jen was small, mam tells us, she would protest to the news by draping a cloth over the television screen. This would get my news-loving parents up in arms. “Take that down! We’re trying to watch the news.”

Jen’s protest never worked because she was smaller than my parents. But what her elders didn’t understand was that she wasn’t just smaller than them – she was wiser, too; and sensitive to the mood that would wash over the room once the blaring bulletins got in. She probably felt like she had a duty to protect her family since both her parents were hypnotised in their armchairs. Imagine the pressure? Both parents down, infected by the negativity, her - the next most senior person in the room, watching the happiness ship go under. She undoubtedly honoured her duty of care to her younger siblings by reaching for a cloth and, for that, kudos to her – even though her peaceful rebellion was ultimately squashed like a bug. Come hell or high water, we all had to sit and listen to the always well-groomed Ann Doyle elegantly dish the dirt.

It all boils down to this, I think:

Children are super sentient and pick up on negative vibrations more discerningly than adults. Grown ups have long become numbed, and perhaps addicted, to bad news. Children just want to play unperturbed with their toys. They appreciate peace and happiness.

Why can’t we?

Does the fact that I still hide from the news mean I should be playing with alphabet bocks? I hope not, though many would say it does.

I don’t care. I’d rather watch oops TV with Justin Lee Collins than listen to hell’s bells.

1 comment:

  1. I still try to cover the news, shield people from the misery it dishes out. I tell them to stop listening, stop waiting for it to all turn around and all of a sudden be transformed into the words we all want to hear.."happiness is back", "the world is saved". not happening, or is it? I know times are tough and people are struggling but is it time to get a bit selfish and just look to ourselves and our loved ones. Would we be called ignorant if we just got on with it and stopped worrying about who has said what this week?, what if we just went to work came home and lived our lives the way we always have?.. I don't think I ever had enough money in my pocket to spend frivolously, I always waited for pay day like life depended on it, is it any different today? Was it really that great? The news would have us believe it was, the news tells us we had it so good!! Pretty sure I still had loans back then too... I say this all the time and my captive audience always nod their agreement, they say "your dead right, it's time to get on with it", this from the ladies at work who, as the hour ticks on to quarter to two, command silence....cause Joe Duffy has just come on.....