Thursday, November 03, 2005

A fast take on the news

The 19 Minutes staff likes to maintain an air of mystery about our physical appearance, in an effort to keep readers and listeners believing that we’re 6’4” and wear a tuxedo to work. Unfortunately, most of our attempts to conceal our appearance are in vain, since the foyer outside our office in the 19 Minutes World Media Headquarters includes a Wall of Fame, featuring pictures of local and national public radio luminaries.

And so people typically express surprise when they see our pictures and reconcile them with our voices. Sometimes, it’s disappointment, but more often, it’s basically stupefaction that we’re not older, younger, shorter, taller, less hirsute, etc. than the voice they hear on the radio.

With that in mind, Dr. Andrew Weil was on the Diane Rehm Show this week, and even a denizen of Public Radioland like me had a hard time reconciling his voice – which sounds for all the world like a polished version of the college student who served my iced tea at Starbucks the other day – with his heavily-bearded visage. Perhaps it’s a testament to his prescription for healthy living, but more likely, that’s just how he sounds.

Weil has a lot of things to say about healthy lifestyles and their ability to stave off the aging process. I’m sure he’d have plenty of things to say about the leftover Halloween candy I’ve consumed in the past few days, too. But one concept he mentioned that should have struck a nerve around the newsroom here was his notion of a “news fast” – that is, a conscious break from listening, watching, or reading the news.

His point was that we’re susceptible to being overwhelmed by the sheer volume of news out there. In other words, difficult and/or lousy things have always gone on all the time around the world – we’re just in a unique postiion to hear about EVERY DANG ONE OF THEM nowadays.

Weil may have a point. Right now on CNBC, there’s a guy shouting about what stocks to buy or sell. On CNN Headline News, there’s a debate about second-hand smoke, accompanied by a scrolling headline about the rapid rise in the price of common prescription medicines for elderly people. MSNBC is reporting on the interregation of Al-Qaeda terrorist suspects. I’m overwhelmed by information, and I hadn’t even gotten to the Top 20 countdown on the GAC Network, the Diamonique sale on QVC, or the guy on Animal Planet who's hoping his yet-to-be-born son will inherit his love for snakes (another health concern to ask Dr. Weil about).

But I’d suggest that a news fast isn’t the answer. Rather, I’d call on the major networks (my own included) devote one day a month to real news – but news that isn’t cause for worldwide alarm.

For that one day, we’d forget about disease-carrying chickens that could wipe out the population of Monaco in 35 minutes, and instead discuss the likelihood that herds of deer could invade our bedrooms, such as was the case in Arkansas recently, where one Wayne Goldsberry was forced to use his bare hands to kill a five-point buck that had crashed into his daughter's house. What's more, by the time the AP showed up, he had already had the deer butchered, packaged, and returned to his freezer. My mother-in-law once struck and killed a deer on her way back from work late one night in rural Minnesota. She called the local sheriff's office when she got home, and they of course asked whether she wanted to claim it. She figured she would, and returned to the scene of the accident a little while later, where an officer was already cleaning the deer for her. Moral of the story - if you're going to hit a deer, do it in a place where the police know what to do with it. Also, you might want to check what your local limits are on hunting deer with a pickup. Or your bare hands.

We could also worry less about the possibility that global climate change is intensifying hurricanes around the world and instead focus on whether a large hold could suddenly open underneath our houses or apartment buildings.

And we'd be able to take a break from the legal news in Iraq, where Saddam Hussein is on trial for, in part, stealing millions from his country, and instead concentrate on the efforts to find out who stole $75,000 worth of bull semen from a Maryland farm.

Although maybe we should worry more about what that person will do with it. Selling it on the black market in Niger would be a good way to get some press.


Carol Davidson said...

My mother says the news on the Christian Broadcasting Network is the "real news."

As you are probably aware, all the other news outlets are (I think) controlled by godless Communists. Or maybe it's the radical (godless) left. I really can't remember.

Which are you, by the way? That might clear it up.

Anyway, on the CBN, they'll tell you all the good things going on in the world and not just the (godless) stories.

I just wanted you to have this heads-up in case you didn't know.

Personally, I'm on a CBN-fast.

Mitch Teich said...

Well, see, that means even the CBN viewers missed out on the stolen bull semen and the deer crashing into the bedroom stories, unless they were able to somehow spin them as "good" news. That's why my all-news channel will feature the slogan "Bad News That Probably Won't Happen to You". We're the news hypochondriac's best friend!