November 28, 2012

Flotsam & Jetsam: Holiday news

Sam Smith - Last night I checked my Google News Reader and there were over 1200 headlines. For the past few days, each time I had looked there were only about three to seven hundred. 

Well, I thought, the holiday must be over. 

I learned about the relationship between headlines and holidays when I was in college and returned to my parents' house for Christmas or Thanksgiving. Whenever I turned on the TV news there seemed to be nothing but murders, house fires and big auto crashes. I was surprised that Philadelphia, where I spent my teen years, had become such a violent place. 

Then I figured it out. There were always murders, house fires and big auto crashes; they just didn't normally get as much play because of all the other news. At Christmas time, however, most of the politicians, PR types and journalists were on vacation, so you had to fill the time with something. 

Later, I would learn about it first hand, sitting in a radio newsroom alone on several holidays - once on Christmas Day - and trying to write nine newscasts while five news ticker tapes were eerily quiet except for a huge Santa Claus one of their operators created totally out of type.

It was there I learned a basic truth about journalism.  Some news is made but a lot of it is made up. With time off for vacations. 

Every year I would be reminded of this, when the mail coming to our office mysterious plummeted around the middle of June, restoring its prevalence after Labor Day. 

Which is why the Benghazi thing didn't interest me. A typical made- up news trick: some politician makes a big fuss over a minor mishap and CNN is busy for weeks. 

Unfortunately, the alternative to real news these days is not striking videos of fires or crashes, but carefully manipulated faux crises  and endless media discussions of what someone powerful meant by what they said and whether they had handled the message well.  

No one in the media seems to care whether you invade another country. How you justify it all that really interests them.  


Thank God, they at least take time off for the holidays. 

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