Less is more. This seems to be the mantra of choice for many print and broadcast journalists, at least in my corner of the world. The media here aren’t distributing less content, just less significant content, as in less newsworthy stories, important articles, and impactful pieces. (I live in a fairly large market in the desert southwest by the way, one that boasts every major sports team as well as every major mattress franchise.)
I’m not sure what happened. Could it be that it’s become unprofitable for the local paper and broadcasters to hire more than a few cubicles worth of real journalists? Or are people simply more interested in what happened to a bachelorette than what happened to a polar ice cap. (I can only assume, without digging for specifics elsewhere, that one of those is still as cold as the other). Either way, it’s become much harder to find out what’s happening in the world. Unfortunately, John Stewart can’t cover everything.
I’ve stopped watching the televised local news. I mean there are only so many heartwarming, heart-rending, haunting human-interest stories my limbic system can handle. And I only scan the local paper for movie times, or to find out the high temp for the day, give or take ten degrees.
Speaking of weather, it’s usually front-page news in my local paper, even though 99% of the time it’s either really really nice, or really really hot. Last week it rained – .03 inches fell – and half the front page was devoted to this drama. I’ll give the paper’s editors their due, as it was a historic sprinkle. There is no recorded instance of precipitation on this date ever. Meanwhile, something a little weightier is going on somewhere in the world – I’m guessing.
It’s not that my local paper is comic book thin, which wouldn’t be a bad idea. It’s chock-full of mostly nonessential articles about freshly painted iconic old signage, or new spaces added to a trailhead’s parking lot. Although these sorts of stories are of interest to some of the wet blanket population, of which I am a part, they aren’t published just once. They’re recycled more often than the paper they’re printed on, wandering through the week from main news one day to editorial the next then to local, and finally (sometimes) to whatever space needs filling at the bottom of the obituary page. Although I want to be as oblivious to the paper’s contents as the editors presume I am, I can’t help but notice this embarrassing strategy for filling the void between ads.
I have a feeling that this news vacuum exists, at varying degrees on the Hoover scale, nationwide. I occasionally click through the web, hopeful of finding some actual news somewhere, only to find more teases than anyone ever tallied at a Gypsy Rose Lee performance. THOUSANDS IN PERIL, the bold print on my screen warns, or promises, depending on the sensibility of the viewer. I click the headline, curious, apprehensive, wondering where and why. After stewing through a thirty second shampoo ad, I find out, no kidding, that a satellite TV company could suffer a temporary outage later in the day – maybe. Thousands of their customers are in peril, just as the come-on promised. They may miss out on what the bachelorette is thinking – or worse, what she’s wearing.
I suppose less is more is a fitting mantra for the news outlets in my area. They provide less real news, allowing us more time to worry about the important things, like what might happen should a drop of unexpected rain land on the bachelorette’s dress – the one I’ve read so much about.
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Harry Margulies is the author of The Knowledge Holder and the recently released The Weight of the Moon. When he’s not writing about romance, money, women, and other subjects he thoroughly enjoys but knows nothing about, he’s frittering his precious time as a cartoonist.
Photo Credit: Shampoo courtesy of eliazar.