Monday, December 03, 2007

The Case of the Mysterious Pepper Spray

News: 1. Information about recent events. 2. New information of any kind.

It’s the oldest, most hackneyed trick in the book to start a piece of writing with a definition of the topic at hand. Which makes perfect sense when talking about “news.”

Did you know, for example, that holiday traffic—both on the road and in the skies—is a nightmare? Or that in December it might possibly snow? Thank goodness every television station and newspaper was on hand to report these stunning new developments.

We live in an Information Age, and this certainly has its benefits. For example, at any given moment, the news crawl at the top of my computer screen can distract me from important work at hand—like typing this delightful blog—with eye-catching headlines about surgeons in Rhode Island who keep operating on the wrong side of people’s brains. That’s good to know.

As with “The Facts of Life,” you take the good, you take the bad. In the case of the 24/7 news cycle, the bad boils down to an awful lot of repetition and the fact that Ann Curry can pop up on my television morning, noon and night. Anyone else had it up to here with Election ’08—way back in ’06? Or the disappearance of Stacy Peterson (who, by the way, is not the only missing woman in America, and not even the only missing mother from the Chicago suburbs)?

There are too many news outlets with too much time to kill, er, I mean fill. Everything is treated as vitally important, which means that news of actual substance gets buried between reports on man bitten by shark and woman who survives lightning strike. If you’re at all familiar with the tale of Miss Puerto Rico and the case of the mysterious pepper spray, you know what I mean. If you’re still trying to figure out the difference between Bosnia, Serbia, and Croatia, I feel your pain.

Maybe we get the news we deserve. For whatever reason, we’re mighty intrigued by the gazillionth Power Ball winner and less so by the humanitarian crisis in Darfur. Not necessarily because we have the attention span of a squirrel or the empathy of a tree frog but possibly because it’s not in our nature to seek out ways to depress ourselves. It’s an interesting phenomenon, one that I’d like to examine in greater depth. But right now, I’m dying to learn more about “Giant Truffle Auctioned for $330,000.”


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