You’re Missing All the Fun… And Other Media Matters

Apparently, as I write this, there is a protest going on on Wall Street, but you and I probably don’t know about it. People are taking to the streets non-violently, and sitting in near — or on — Wall Street, demanding that Wall Street give back to the community, that they have fair policies, that they be ethical. People are getting arrested during these protests, I gather.

How many people are doing this? I don’t know. It could be five people sitting around a picnic table in Central Park (is that near Wall Street?) or it could be 1,000 in front of Bank of America or Chase. Why don’t I know? Because I’m busy making a living and never hear the news to know what CBS, NBC, ABC, or FOX is saying these days. What I see is from the “alternative” press in little blips in my e-mail from such things as AlterNet, ReaderSupported News and the like. I wake up to NPR and quickly catch a shower within five minutes because I’m usually running late. Everything that I read (albeit briefly) says that nobody’s covering this thing that looks like Arab Spring Comes to Wall Street.  For live streaming video click here:

So here’s my question: How does the media choose what to cover? Who determines what is news? From the bit of video I’ve seen, there are more than five people or ten gathering at this thing.  How does Fred Phelps’ little tribe of people rank as noteworthy when these people don’t?  While I personally disagree BIG TIME with Phelps’ church picketing funerals and the like, I get that it might be news. Still, it doesn’t represent reality for most Christians.  I understand that the press reports actual events, but the human thing to do is generalize from those events.  If you’re going to print a story or show a story, shouldn’t it at least represent a wider sense of reality?

At the same time, there can be news about how Congress might have another shutdown and how The People are helpless to stop it. And here’s a bunch of people exercising their constitutional rights in protesting and “fighting back” at the corruption they see and this doesn’t qualify as news? Are they trying to make us feel overwhelmed or hopeless?  Why would that be?  What’s the point to that? Is that really the moral you want to be telling people?

In other media matters — How does two women wearing the same dress qualify as news? If Starlet A and Starlet B show up at some event, it shows up on my Yahoo News front page as though it had the same weight as an earthquake in Chile or flooding in Vermont or Peace Prize winners somewhere. Really? Is that news?

Kind of in the same vein,  movies go through cycles of the same story and every once in awhile that story is “dangerous psycho guy stalks his ex girlfriend”.  I hate those movies though I’ve never seem one (not fair? maybe) because they seem to say to women that there’s nothing they can do to protect themselves, that women are helpless victims.  Really? I don’t ever want my daughters thinking they are helpless. That’s not a story I want to tell.

My younger daughter, reading this, said “Why does the news report on a guy saying “radiated milk is nothing to worry about” without reporting that somebody thought it was? Why put it on there in the first place? Why worry people?

Also, who decides what is a in a school book catalog that comes home  orwhat’s a kids book?  Harry Potter, in the first book, is a kids’ story and a very good one at that. But by the third or forth book in the series, they are NOT kids’ books anymore.  Psychological torture (the dementors)  is not a kid’s theme.  Nazi-ism  among witches (Death eaters) is not a concept a little kids should have to handle.  Souls broken up, murder, madness, etc aren’t stories for elementary school kids. At least I don’t think so.   This was followed by the Twilight series.  Seriously? My then 10-year-old was reading stories about sexy vampires? And she did so to keep up with her peers?!  We struggled to stop her at Book Three (I think it was that).   As a teen book, okay, maybe… maybe. But in elementary school?

Last rant: Can Hollywood have a moratorium on making the movie “caring/weird teacher comes into violent classroom and changes their life”?  I love teachers. I do. I even have a few teachers that have changed my life.  But, for the foreseeable future, I won’t spend my money on “{Off-kilter, Black, Hispanic, Female, Farmer, Hippie, Conservative] Teacher comes to ghetto classroom and makes the students care”.  I’ve seen it already.

So that’s my news and rant.  I guess my question is this — how does an editor — TV, newspaper, internet, movies — decide what story to tell?  How and why?  Wouldn’t it be better if we felt empowered? Wouldn’t it be better if it was age-appropriate? Wouldn’t it be better if it weren’t the same story over-and-over? I just don’t get it.









4 thoughts on “You’re Missing All the Fun… And Other Media Matters

  1. John,
    You’ve pretty much covered why we never watch news on TV, with the exception of occasional severe weather coverage, which is usually overblown hype too (but at least I know that while watching). We certainly won’t let our kids see the news. It’s all full of so much alarmist garbage and so little substantial news it’s useless. I have my own media feeds I refer to on my computer and I decide what stories I want to read. RSS feeds are great for this. You see every story roll by over time and you get to decide if something is worthy of your attention. Old media is doomed and they know it. Scare tactics and some odd attraction to stardom are the only things keeping people watching.

    We will teach our kids to fear strangers appropriately and keep the doors locked. Burglaries and drug abuse (including a recent dealer’s murder) are up in town and have our formerly happy little residential town slowly waking up from denial. Day to day pounding of every grizzly story they can find helps noone.

    I have to agree about the inappropriateness of the Harry Potter stories as well, at least the later ones. Our 7 yo girl may see the first this year but we’ll do what we can to hold off on introducing them. What do you think is the appropriate age for the Blues Brothers? 🙂

    Write on


    • Derek:

      Thanks for the input! I haven’t figured out how to get RSS feeds yet. Any suggestions would be appreciated. I worried that the post would be too “old and fuddy-duddy” re: kids stuff. Thanks for your support.
      The Blues Brothers is a classic for all ages, provided you don’t want to explain why that lady wants to kill the nice men and why Jake and Elwood can say those bad words… better wait a while on that one. : )



  2. Hey there!

    Been a while. Don’t worry, I’m still reading all of these.

    With regards to the most important question, I think Blues Brothers can only be viewed in bits and pieces until about age 12. Just an opinion.

    For all of the other questions – “who decides?”, “Why…?”. etc.- I’d like to point out to a recent FB status update that I had:
    “Bob Cunningham has observed that just about always, the question “Why…” is ultimately answered with “…money.””

    And I’d say that applies to each of the questions you pose. News stories are chosen purely on the basis of “Will this help us to retain / gain viewers so we can sell commercials?”, and not on the basis of “does the public need to know?”. And yes, movie & book plots are the same. etc. Money answered pretty much every question you answered, if you follow it through far enough.

    Keep on keepin’ on!

    • Bob:

      Glad you’re back. Thanks for the input, and I agree that “money” is frequently the answer. Of course my response is “yeah, but should it be?”.

      Re: The Blues Bros: I think the real thing to remember is that it is required viewing by age 16, when one considers getting a drivers license — either as a model of “wow. let’s try that!” or what not to do.
      ; ) .



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