This is a simple column by a complex woman.  
Dumb-asses need not apply.
If you flatter yourself to be
a bright spot in the universe
and aren't offended by "psychotic breaks,"
If you're a little frightened, well, all the better.
We kinda like you like that... with hot sauce.

“Lawyers, you’ve been replaced.”

Maybe it’s the nature of communication, an inevitable popularization of a medium and an honor, to uphold and perpetuate the journalistic integrity to inform, to report, to balance, to offer justice when the courts and the government cannot. 

I’m talking about the total deterioration of the media, print and broadcast, into a bottom-feeding entertainment circus. 

The very goal of news anchors and reporters sets up an opportunity for sensationalistic tendencies, as every man for himself sets up facts, figures, and quotes to grab viewers’ attention toward #1. 

Newspapers and news shows still inform and report, but the rest of it?, the keeping the various forms of government in check, acting as the judicial body’s back-up, in the never-ending battle against corruption...? That’s gone, along with proof readers and the complete sentence. 

The more things change, the more things cost, which encompasses the media in all its duplicitous glory. News costs. In order to pay the bills, a rising cost of living in the ever-advancing technological world we live and play in, bosses of news organizations, from “The New York Times” to KOMO-TV Seattle local news, must maintain some semblance of glitzy, Hollywood-ized acclaim, even if—at times—it seems as if mere front-page news has been manipulated into cause-celebre. 

The list runs for miles. For this past, the year 2003? A Who’s Who of Armageddon, out of a molehill: 

SARS, West Nile, flu, Mad Cow, Michael Jackson, Green River, Malvo, Orange Alert, San Diego fires, Boeing to Chicago, drops, unemployment, Keiko revisited (front page for God’s sakes), Britney Spears’ virginity lost, Britney & Justin’s break-up, Queer Eye, gays in the church, gays out of marriage, John Ritter... 

Wonder why the deadly flu epidemic hasn’t been mentioned in what seems ages? Because of Mad Cow disease. 

Every day, with red pen in hand, I can circle common misspellings (occurring more frequently on TV and in billboards), frequent typos, incomplete sentences in straight news pieces, incomplete headlines, inappropriate placement of types of news, editorializing in straight and feature articles, editorializing without attribution, incomplete attribution, excessive use of flowery adjectives in straight news pieces, humanizing the weather, fires, murders, car accidents (as in, “wicked” wind the likes of which this town has never known), jumping the gun before facts can be checked and rechecked (it’s Sunny Dene, not Hidden Valley), inane banter between news stories, misuse of airtime for feel-good PSAs promoting the local and national news stations and networks, exaggeration of news, creating news, inserting self-made anchor celebs into news, inability to fairly and equally and comprehensively present the opposite side. 

Take the latest scare tactic. I mean, news, every radio and TV station, not to mention newspapers, can’t keep from bringing up at every other opportunity. Mad Cow disease hits Washington, origins unknown, U.S. beef exports reduced or cancelled by foreign markets, stock market reflects low confidence, mass hysteria threatening the beef industry and Taco Bell. 

Their hyperbole, not mine. 

A journalist’s job is to report just the facts. In an investigative piece, elaborate through experts both sides thoroughly, and then leave well enough alone. Instead, journalists go on and on about the possible probable dangers of Mad Cow disease, the mystery of the diseased Washington cow’s origins, hypothesize impact on millions and millions of people and dollars, pushing the worse-case scenario, then, in one last paragraph with one paltry line from a downplayed expert, a call to reason and calm and a reassurance that the reports of dire consequences are overblown. 


Mad-cow fears hard to quell

Suddenly, eating a hamburger seems almost as reckless as skydiving with a garage-sale parachute.

Federal officials insist American beef is safe, but the nation's first mad-cow case has left many people skeptical of government safeguards and worried that a mouthful of meatloaf today could prove fatal in 10 years.

-Seattle Times, December 28, 2003

But the damage is already done. The media has seen to it. 

Because, you see, the media needs its revenue, its ratings, its viewership increased at any cost, even that of your well-being. 

Another page turned, and it’s a study in big bold –incomplete sentence- letters proclaiming that the human body, today, contains more deadly pollutants as evidence by tests of urine, blood and mother’s breast milk, than ever before, and a major source comes from the chemical sprayed on furniture as flame retardant, approved after a previously outlawed chemical had not been. But, not to worry new moms, you don’t have to switch to formula because the pollutants have already passed on to the placenta to your unborn babies beforehand, possibly maybe kinda sorta building in your own systems until you just keel over with some new form of cancer. Last paragraph, last line, a word of caution against panic, which, of course, we all ignore. 

They build up the negative extremes, then bury the hope, and call it reporting. 

Why don’t they just begin and end every news cast with: “You’re all gonna die. Details after the weather.” [Borrowed, paraphrased from “Bruce Almighty.”

I can’t say I blame them completely, save for their usual arrogance of position (*journalists are the most self-important, self-righteous liberal pricks you’d ever meet, who can’t spell and can barely be bothered to listen to anyone outside their belief system). If they did their jobs, nobody would watch, people would complain that news was boring and tune in to “Entertainment Tonight” and MTV’s “The Newlyweds,” starring Nick Lachey and Jessica Simpson, waiting for the next Michael Jackson indictment, maybe Clinton will be caught again with his pants down and we can all sniff his blue dress. 

I just wish they’d tone down the bad news to news. And leave the deciding to us. 

Their deadly flu epidemic took months for me to recover from, and now, now I have to worry about eating a Quarter Pounder with cheese at McDonalds? 

*The journalists I’ve met, known and worked with.


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