Examine What Passes as News
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Given 10-Jul-10; 15 minutes
Have you taken the time to think about what is covered on the news? Not how they cover it, but what news they actually give us? It doesn't have to be any particular news show. It doesn't have to be CBS, NBC, ABC; it doesn't have to be CNN. It could be any news program on television or radio, or even news that you might get on the Internet. It could even be what is printed in a newspaper. Have you ever really considered how or who or why they pick the news stories that go before your eyes?
Somewhere, someone—probably some editor or some executive at a big news corporation—has decided what is newsworthy, what's fit to print, as they used to say. Then it is presented to the show's audience, or to the paper's audience, as what is going on in the world today—what is important for you to know.
This is a hefty responsibility, if you think about it. I do not know if these news editors consider it such a hefty responsibility. It is probably just a workaday thing for them most the time. But really, the news that they present to us has the ability to mold and shape the way we look at life, the way we look at what's going on.
The "Old Gray Lady" is the one who leads this charge. This is The New York Times that I'm talking about. Normally, a lot of the mainstream press goes with whatever the New York Times editorial board decides is what's worthy to go into the news. On the other side of the aisle, a lot of times, whatever Matt Drudge puts on the Drudge Report is what goes for a lot of other maybe more conservative news outlets. It's a pretty hefty responsibility, and really, if you think about it, it comes down to just a very few powerful people who have this job to mold and shape the way we think.
Every year, though, the summer news season is really the silly season. Not much of consequence seems to go on in the hot months of July and August. That's actually not true, but that's the way it's presented, that there is not much happening because government is not working at full steam. Congress is out of session, and in an election year like this one, candidates are gearing up for their fall election. This is kind of the lull before the campaign season winds up into full press mode.
So, we tend to get in our news shows or in the paper a lot of stories about shark attacks, or the various summer festivals that are going on—the Watermelon Festival or the Cherry Festival with the pit spitting contest. Just last week we had the hot dog eating contest there in New Jersey—stupid things like that. Who won Miss Peach Festival this year. One of my favorites that's always on Headline News is the contests for those who who fly their own homemade flying vehicle into the bay, wherever it happens to be. People come up with all kinds of weird things; they put wings on their arms and they fly off this thing and dive thirty feet into the water. It makes for a spectacle, but it's not really news. It's just frippery. It's nothing.
Just this morning, Beth and I were watching Headline News, and we saw that there will be, in the next day or two, the second annual mass skinny-dipping world record attempt, of all things. This passes for headline news!
Only less ridiculous was this week's media mass hysteria over the NBA's LeBron James—his free agency decision. I mean, the sports world and even people not in the sports world were all a-twitter (and literally Twittering) about what LeBron James was going to do. Where would he land? Would he stay in Cleveland with the Cavaliers? Cleveland's his hometown (or right near there), and he told them before that he would stay there and bring a championship to the city. Would he go to New York? Because they were offering him pretty big bucks, and New York is big time. Of course, the Knicks have had nine straight losing seasons, but if LeBron came and they gave him $150 million (or whatever he was going to get from them), boy, that could turn the team right around, and in the big city of New York, get all that media attention.
Or would he go with another team with championship hopes, like Dallas or Miami? And we cannot help but know—because it was blasted into our heads throughout Thursday and Friday—that he went to the Miami Heat. They won the lottery for LeBron James. Now, he has considered the NBA's best player—the last two years, he's been the MVP. He's kind of a demigod of basketball. He's our age's Michael Jordan. He's the next best thing. But do not feel bad for him that he went to Miami and not to New York. He got to go with superstars Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh, and they actually took pay cuts (poor guys) so that they could get LeBron there with them, so that they could win a championship. Now they are promising multiple championships, because they signed six year deals.
Wouldn't it be something if they all got hurt, or if those three huge egos collided on the court every night?. I mean, who's going to get the ball? Who's going to score? Is it Duane Wade or is it going to be LeBron? Or is it going to be Chris Bosh? Which one is going to be the go-to guy? You can't have three go-to guys. Who's going to be the leader? I do not know. But don't cry over them and all their problems. They're each going to get more than $14 million next year, and they have a six year contract. So, who knows how much they'll end up making?
Of course, ESPN went gaga over this, and they gave LeBron James an entire hour special for him to announce where he was going to go. And wouldn't you know that once he announced that he was going to go to Miami, that on Friday the stock price of Madison Square Garden Incorporated fell five percent? The people who had invested in Madison Square Garden, knowing that he wouldn't be a Nick, were pulling their money out because they wouldn't have the revenues that they would have had, had LeBron James signed with New York and not Miami.
Are our priorities skewed, or what? I could have easily used another example. The fervor over the FIFA World Cup going on now in South Africa. It's not particularly popular in the U.S., but it's hugely popular in Africa and in Europe and in central South America. It's vuvuzela madness, and in many places, work stops when they are those games are on. Even here in America, they have people leaving their offices and going to the sports bars to watch these games because they happen in the middle of the day. But just like basketball, soccer, football, these are games. What do they really matter in the great scheme of things? What really worth do they have to to life? Really very little. Perhaps a bit of national pride a bit of bragging rights, but that's about it. And when was the last time pride and bragging were good things?
I receive an email each week from the Pew Research Center, and it tells me what the most popular stories are in the press. Over the past 70+ days, the oil spill in the Gulf has been one of the biggest stories. It's consistently ranked high on the list. It is an important story, but I do not think it's the most important story that has happened over the past few months. At least that's my mind in the matter. And these sports stories have been momentary blips. But when they are on the radar, they obliterate the most truly important news. I mean, which was more important: Where LeBron James went, or would Elena Kagan be confirmed to her Supreme Court seat?
If you ask me, the coverage of the Elena Kagan confirmation hearings was ridiculous. It was absolutely, mind-numbingly ridiculous. Do you remember just a few years ago, a couple decades ago, when Supreme Court confirmation hearings used to be covered wall-to-wall on national television—on the networks; on CBS, NBC, ABC? They would even put their soap operas at 3 AM in order to get these things i,n so that everybody could hear what was going on.
This time around, you had to go to C-SPAN to get full coverage of the Elena Kate Kegan hearings, and most of the mainstream media's news coverage on the nightly shows was about how funny Miss Kagan was in her responses to some of the questions. It was little news clips, just the soundbites where she had a zinger to go back to a senator who was pressing her on something. Unlike when Robert Bork or Clarence Thomas were under the gun, the media did not dwell in their news coverage on the tough questions that were asked, or on any so-called evasive responses. It was simply how funny she was. So, they minimized it considerably. And this woman has the potential to make leftist decisions on the Supreme Court for the next forty years, because she's fairly young. She's in her early 50s, I believe it is.
Did you hear recently about what the Obama Justice Department decided to do? They made a determination, just this week or last week, not to prosecute blacks. Did you hear that? They made a determination that the Justice Department was not going to prosecute blacks. It dropped the voter intimidation case against the new Black Panthers a little while ago, and they recently decided, just this past week, to drop a motor voter case against Acorn or an Acorn-like organization.
They were trying to stop the states from purging their their voter registration logs, because they usually purge them of felons and people who go out of state, and people who die. This motor-voter thing was going to to cause them to make these purges. But they do not want them to be purged, because most of those people vote Democrat. This is a clear miscarriage of justice, because justice is not only supposed to be blind, it's supposed to be color blind. If the law was broken, it should be prosecuted, no matter who did it.
So, while I enjoy watching sports, I understand they are just a diversion. There are just for fun, just a temporary risk escape from responsibility. God, in His will and His way, will obviously be first. But we do need to know what is really happening around us—to this nation, to this culture, to this people. But the news media are not doing their jobs in this regard, and there probably is a larger agenda at work, probably to skew the news in a certain political direction.
But we have the ability, still, not to allow ourselves to be distracted as the rest of the world is. Don't trust the news media. Seek out the truth in alternative sources. Don't let the first one we hear sway our thinking about a subject. There is a proverb about this:
Proverbs 18:17 The first one to plead his cause seems right, until his neighbor comes and examines him.
We need to be the neighbor who examines what we are being told by the media.