Thursday, May 27, 2010

News Channels Have too Much Time to Fill

Having so many full-time news networks is not necessarily a good thing. To fill all this time, they focus on "breaking news" with reporters on the spot to follow events as they happen. The result is that frequently trivial occurrences are noted with a solemnity that far exceeds  newsworthiness.

When a catastrophe occurs, every boo-boo is captured, every failure noted. The current oil spill is a good example.
The assumption of journalists seems to be that immediately upon a catastrophe, all relevant institutions should be so perfectly prepared and organized that all the right things begin to happen at once without any gaps  and proceed without error until every issue is resolved. Unfortunately, the world does not operate like that. Institutions are imperfect, and leadership is fallible and sometimes incompetent  and often negligent. Having this pointed out twenty fours hours a day does not necessarily serve the public good, given the excesses that so much time allows.

Commentators demand explanation for every perceived failure and often seem to know infallibly what ought to be happening and what everybody should be doing to correct things. No mercy is shown and the recognition that some problems are complex and difficult to resolve is almost totally absent. Journalists appear to lack any comprehension of their own fallibility and ignorance.

The gaps in time between  "breaking news" events are filled with commentary from an innumerable host of folks who presumably  but frequently do not have something worthwhile to say. Political critics are omnipresent, though they are as often wrong as right and are sometimes silly. Gov. Jindal of Louisiana who thinks we have too much government and too many regulations is getting air time to criticize Obama for not doing enough.

Some of the critics sound as if they think Obama should be out there on the rig shouting orders to engineer and executives and directing every move. They seem deaf to the rejoinder that the government does not have the know how or the equipment to stop the oil flow. The only sense I can make of all this is that they want him to be louder and angrier.

 The  larger context is that too much attention is paid to ephemeral events that pass quickly into the trivia of history. The worst example is when all else is dropped to focus attention on a police chase in California followed by helicopters for an hour until the culprit is stopped, runs out of gas, or crashes.

Maybe the news channels should be forced to show Bugs Bunny cartoons half the time. The world would be no worse off and might even get along better. It certainly would be more high-class entertainment and much less boring than a constant diet of  "breaking news."

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