Archive Opinion The Orion

Buis’ Bits: No News

August 1, 2005

“This just might do nobody any good.

“At the end of this discourse, a few people may accuse this reporter of fouling his own comfortable nest, and your organization may be accused of having given hospitality to heretical and even dangerous thoughts…

“It is my desire, if not my duty, to try to talk to you journeymen with some candor about what is happening to radio and television.”

These words from Edward R. Murrow’s 1958 speech to the Radio and Television News Directors Association were about the rabid Sen. Joseph McCarthy–Wisconsin’s flaming bag of dog poop on America’s doorstep.

The problem is, 47 years later, we’re still stuck in a mire of journalistic slop.

Murrow declared in that speech the importance of journalists to be able to do their job and do it well, and without the influence of the almighty advertising dollar.

Here we are though in 2005 where when a hurricane bears down over 2000 miles away, there is no other news. Cable news latches onto a series of shots with trees blowing, signs coming off, Anderson Cooper barely able to keep his skinny self on two feet.

Why? Ratings.

That may have sounded like the biggest “duh” statement of all-time. If that’s the case, then why did O.J. Simpson signing autographs at a horror convention get so much coverage? Why is Natalie Holloway still getting significant coverage?

Two words: train-wreck journalism.

A train derails or there’s a car accident on the way to class. It’s horrible–people could be dead. But what happens every time?

Your neck snaps toward it and your eyes can’t pull away. Twenty-four-hour news networks need something to keep people glued to their televisions, and nothing does it better than a good disaster.

The blame for the sorry state of journalism can be tossed around for days. CNN and FOX News killed network news, network news killed newspapers, newspapers killed the town crier, video killed the radio star.

It’d be too easy for you, the reader, to say that it’s some large beast in New York that you can’t affect in any way shape or form. I would have fallen for that same trap about a week ago.

However, I had the good fortune to wander into a message-board topic about President Bush’s impromptu scripted speech a week or so ago. The first reply was a passive “Bush isn’t the only one who does that.”

I guess that means we ignore the fact that this was a rehearsed dialogue between the leader of the free world and the people who are fighting his battle.

It doesn’t matter that this event was sold as an authentic talk with a few lucky soldiers, and the fact that it was scripted was intentionally withheld and only discovered because someone screwed up and rehearsed with cameras set up in the room.

Everybody does it.

That works perfectly in Magicfunhappyland where gumdrops and marshmallows fall from the sky, where rainbows and sunshine blow out of your assets and into every part of the world to make it a better place.

Unfortunately, in the real world, we have to realize that ignorance may be bliss, but life doesn’t stop moving because you’re not paying attention.

One of the major problems in journalism is the lack of a proper check to balance it. The main goal of a journalist is to keep the public informed and to keep their noses in as many places as the public needs.

However, if the public doesn’t show a need for their noses to be buried in the big stories of the day, it just won’t be covered. It just won’t sell ad space. That’s how we get shafted with hurricane weekend or a leadless search for a blond high school student in another country.

The Orion has two different ways for you to get involved and tell us what you think is news.

First, you can drop a line to the writer of the story by clicking on their e-mail address at the bottom of the story. Remember, everything you see in the print edition is here online too.

(debating about providing links to section editors e-mails here…)

Second, if you look just below the e-mail, you can get near-instant gratification with The Orion Online’s feedback feature. Your words can be there for people to see–a message board for each story.

When I say, “Get involved,” though, I’m not talking about screaming bloody murder at the liberal media or the vast Orion conspiracy against the Greeks. Sometimes you have to take off the beer goggles and see the world as it is–not how you want to see it.

These are your chances for you, the reader, to start having an impact on the news you pick up in print every Wednesday or hop on the Internet for daily.

To paraphrase Edward R Murrow, unless we recognize that media in the main is being used to distract, delude, amuse and insulate us, then the media and those who finance it, those who look at it and those who work at it, may see a totally different picture too late.

Bringing the news to the masses can’t be done without the masses.