Ever find yourself wishing for a time when there wasn’t the information overload we’re experiencing today? To be honest with you, I am in news burnout. Heard and watched all I can stand. Everywhere you turn, you’re being inundated with excessive amounts of information from CNN, MSNBC, Fox, the networks and Madison Avenue.
Madison Avenue and the pharmaceutical companies are always trying to sell you something. They smell baby boomer health issues and the almighty dollar. They inspire a lot of paranoia in a few of us. Erectile Dysfunction (ED) is a big one. No man will ever admit he has that problem. Other men have it. Poor souls…
I don’t know about you, but when did we become so addicted to the news with this huge thirst for information, dirt, and juicy gossip? And—when did the news become a source of entertainment instead of just the news?
Man, do we love dirt—as long as it’s someone else’s. We’re a society of nosy busy bodies.
Best I can remember, the news became entertainment and an addiction the morning of September 11, 2001 when most of us were affixed to the screen—frightened beyond anything in memory short of the Kennedy assassination or the Shuttle Challenger in 1986. Ground Zero, The Pentagon, and Shanksville, Pennsylvania became utter fascination for the masses who’d never seen anything like it in this lifetime. Something we hope never to see again. The world was imploding right around our ears. A disaster movie, with people running in the streets, became real that morning. We’ve never been the same either. Our short-lived unity in the aftermath of 9/11 has turned into hate and division in an environment void of real leadership.
Perhaps our passion for the news arrived when President Clinton was caught with his pants down with an intern and we became educated about the finer points of DNA and that unfortunate and embarrassing spot on the dress. Or was it Anthony Weiner and those educational online images he shared with the masses?
So many scandals, so little time… I must get back to my garden.
If you were born between 1946 and 1964 and identify as a baby boomer, you remember classic television with a cathode ray tube in a big cabinet. You’d switch it on and it would take the better part of 45 seconds to a minute to warm up and deliver a picture. If your eyes were closed, you could hear the picture appear with the crackle of electronic stimulation. And—when you turned it off, a little white dot would appear mid-screen and gradually disappear. You’d turn out the lights, then, turn the TV off and watch the elusive dot slip away into darkness. I always wondered where it went.
When we were growing up a half-century ago, the news wasn’t around the clock like it is today. It aired in the evening and only when there was real breaking news—not this meaningless teaser tabloid stuff we have today. That was when the networks interrupted “Flipper” or “Lassie” with a Special Report. CBS had a voiceover we were all familiar with—Harry Kramer. He announced “The Edge of Night…” followed by the menacing sound of a piano. And—when there was trouble, you’d hear him say, “This is a CBS News Special Report…” followed by Walter Cronkite or Dan Rather. When they said “Special Report” or “Breaking News” you knew they meant it.
When did “Breaking News…” and “Special Report…” become the media’s way of crying wolf? And, what about that, Wolf? It’s to a point where I don’t take Breaking News and Special Report seriously anymore. Who would? Sometimes it’s just the news. Lester Holt and Wolf Blitzer come on the air every evening with the words “Breaking News…” and no one takes them seriously. I hit the remote and move to HGTV or TVLand.
Yesterday’s news had a strong element of integrity. It had better be accurate or heads would roll in the newsroom. And—it had better be real news. I remember the Reagan assassination attempt in 1981. The late Frank Reynolds was anchoring that afternoon. Reynolds was handed misinformation indicating President Reagan had died. He quickly learned he’d been handed bad information. It had to be one of the worst moments in his career. He hit the ceiling on the air and thundered (I am paraphrasing), “Let’s get this right!” I also recall his euphoria with the first Space Shuttle launch—Columbia—that same year. He was thrilled at the speed of the Space Shuttle compared with the Saturn V Apollo launches in the 1960s.
He was as giddy as a child.
Who can forget the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo launches with CBS News Anchor, the late Walter Cronkite, who got us excited about space and who yielded the excitement of a kid when the Eagle set down on the Moon and Astronaut Neil Armstrong announced “The Eagle Has Landed…” It was a wonder Chronkite didn’t wet his pants. We’d done it. We achieved President John F. Kennedy’s vision for America. He inspired us to go to the moon and safely return to the Earth. And, Chronkite took us by the hand to the moon. He clearly enjoyed educating all of us on the finer points of getting to the moon right down to how astronauts took a bathroom break in space. The one and only time they wanted and needed gravity.
We’ve learned in recent times the news isn’t news anymore. It is gossip and it is opinion. Always a panel of pundits standing by to render opinion instead of a news anchor sharing the news. Does anyone remember when the news went from being the news to being biased reporting and gossip much as it is today? The news is more about the opinion of the anchor or reporter than it is news.
No thanks—I think I will pass…