Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Early Morning Thoughts

A friend sent me an article written by an author in India. The author wrote to complain about the news media’s coverage of the Mumbai savagery. I read, and read, marveling at both the anger and the underlying assumption. The author argued, passionately, that the media was hung up on reporting the disaster from the perspective of rich people, i.e., those people residing at the Taj Mahal Hotel, and perhaps even the Oberoi. The article left me wondering what the author expected of the news media covering the tragedy.
She argued that other places had been hit and people killed in those places, but it was only the playgrounds of the rich and famous that received coverage. She kept arguing that the Taj Hotel wasn’t a real icon of India. That the railway station was as iconic and deserving of greater coverage. She was right of course, but it seemed to me that she missed the point of TV news. I kept thinking, TV news is all about entertainment. It uses actual news events to sell soap, or coca cola. In India, maybe it is used to sell Tata trucks.
Of course it doesn’t provide coverage of all the news. Ours doesn’t here either. US TV news focuses on drama, or comedy—theatrical coverage, that facilitates the selling of cars, or coke, or Wal-Mart. It is why we gave up watching TV news of any kind, even PBS. Instead, we read actual newspapers, in our case a daily Charlotte Observer and a Sunday New York Times. We supplement those news outlets with on-line outlets—the BBC, and the Manchester Guardian in Great Britain, the Washington Post and New York Times on-line editions, and something called The Thai-India News. We also never fail to watch PBS’ The Bill Moyers Journal, perhaps the finest journalistic program on the air. Moyers makes you . . . gasp . . . think.
We observe here that journalism seems a dying enterprise, to be replaced by Entertainment Daily. Newspapers may be the first to go, if our rapidly shrinking Charlotte Observer is any indicator. I guess people increasingly don’t read—they twitter, chatter, and blather on about American Idols. Maybe our 35-40% school drop-out rate is to blame. But who’s to blame for the drop-out rate? I’d love to blame Wal-Mart, or organized religion, but I’d surely miss the mark.
Maybe President Obama needs to focus on education first. Unfortunately, the 12th century folks who keep shooting up the world’s stages, seem intent on denying him that luxury. They keep shouting, “look at me, look at me. I’m important.” And look he must, if we are all to survive.
One wonders whether, in the dark hours, before dawn brings the light, he awakens, and thinks, “why did I do this to myself?”
And then, at that same moment, I awaken, and think, “Great heavens’, we are lucky we have a person of some intellectual prowess at the helm. Go back to sleep, Richard. Barack will wrestle with the latest mess.”
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