6.30.2005

I never thought I would say this: Kill Your Television...or at least, the news stations

I can't watch TV anymore. Commercials that follow a husband and wife through all the stages of family life with sweet sappy music in the background. Dramas in which a mother loses both of her children and eventually her lousy cheating husband. The nightly news. Children missing. Mothers killing their children. Fathers killing their entire families. I can't watch anymore. Since becoming a mother, I don't think I have become soft - I've become more human.

In another lifetime, I worked as a television news reporter. I covered a shooting in which a teenage girl was shot accidentally by her best friend with her friend's father's gun (which was not locked away). She was shot in the face. I covered the aftermath of the Springfield school shooting and interviewed a mother who had a child in elementary school, one in middle school, and one in high school. When I asked the youngest, who was eight, if his friends were talking about shooting someone at school, would he thnk of doing the same? His answer was chilling: an honest and immediate "yes, if my friends were I probably would." The mother sat motionless, just staring at her son; I can't imagine what she was thinking that moment. I covered countless accidents, many of them fatal, many of them ugly. I was warned in journalism school that when I saw my first dead body I would likely throw up--if not from the sight, then from the smell--but that eventually I would get used to it. I didn't have to get used to it - I just covered it, mechanically, and didn't think about the life that was lost. I couldn't. I had to think about shooting the video from the right angles, getting the best sound bites, getting to the scene before any other reporter and finding the exclusive angle that would make it a great story to add to my reel.

Once I covered a fatal accident and the dead woman's shoes were laying out in the middle of the road. I don't quite know how they got there, but it was a pretty bad accident. Her blood seemed to soak through the body bag. I saw her shoes and shot video of them. Just laying there. No life in them. Just shoes. I knew it made great video because it symbolized the woman herself, the life that was lost so tragically. The shoes that no longer would walk, run, dance, play.

When I got back to the station, my now husband, then producer of that night's show, criticized me for the shot. It was too personal. Too gratuitous. For some reason, at that moment, I couldn't see how he could think that way. It made great television, and helped personalize the story.

My husband and I have since both been out of the news biz, and we are grateful for every day that we are where we are, instead of some random town somewhere covering stories about people we didn't know and topics that, quite frankly, didn't matter to us personally. You move around a lot in the business, and after living in three states within three years, we were done. You enter broadcasting thinking you are going to change the world, only to realize you are the last profession that can do so.

So here we are...Mom and Dad to one adorable, innocent, sweet and amazing little Boo. Boo, who has changed my outlook on everything, but has especially made me appreciate the value of life - everyone's, no matter who they are. It is honestly difficult to do that if you work in the media. Newsies think they do, but they can't. They think they are doing a great service, that they are helping the American public. In some cases, they truly are. In many, they are not.

Take our local FOX news station. They spend more time covering every random, single incident crime scene, FOX's Most Wanted, and random accidents than any other station in town. These stories affect perhaps two to 10 people in the entire world each-that's it. How is this helping me learn about the important matters of the day?

Or the Today Show, airing three - what felt like 10 - parts of the Matt Lauer/Tom Cruise interview. Then every other station jumping on the Tom Cruise bandwagon from every possible idiotic and unnecessary angle imaginable. STOP MILKING STUPID STORIES. If you do not cover them, then they will not be news. They aren't as it is.

All I want is to have The NEWS back. Stories about politics, the environment, healthcare, education, racism. Tell me about the atrocities in other parts of the world, and in our own backyard, and then tell us how we as citizens can help. Cover both sides of the story - not just the one that the owner of your corporation wants us to hear (I'm talking to you, FOX). Dump the fluff and the crap and just give us the facts. Write with some actual skill. Tell me a story and make me believe it, feel it, and want to hear more. Show me some anchors and reporters with actual credibility, integrity, and brains. Real brains. Ask hard questions and don't let the President get away with not answering a single question that you ask. Stop covering the blood and guts and get back to the glory of real, solid hard news.

I turn to the people for news these days, not my television or radio or print or online. There is nothing real about the media anymore, in any shape or form (no, not even public broadcasting) at least not to this former news junkie. What's real are walks in the park with Boo, trips to the zoo, heated discussions about everything from same sex marriage to daycare to the war in Iraq over microbrews with people from all walks of life. Everyday life is chaotic and unpredictable and messy enough as it is; the news should inform and shed light on the truth, not instill unnecessary fear in us or pump us with useless information.

2 comments:

Little Green Friend said...

(Standing ovation) Very well put. The irony is that it took someone outside of the field to stand up and say something that would be "News" to most journalists. :-/

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Love but Hate said...

This blog is very nice! Well done on your good work!

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