Sunday, August 21, 2005

Crappy News Network

Veteran commentator Bob Costas surprised some people this week when he refused to guest-host a Larry King show about Natalee Holloway, the missing Alabama teenager. Costas declined to give a reason, other than say "I didn't think the subject matter...was the kind of broadcast I should be doing". Translation: he doesn't like crap. The idea of devoting another hour to the umpteenth "missing girl" story offended his journalistic sensibility and standards.

Bravo, Bob Costas.

I'm not quite sure how "missing girl" mania became the latest journalistic fad, but it's probably the most annoying thing to hit television since Dennis Miller doing Monday Night Football. It seems like every week CNN, Fox, and MSNBC find a new case of a young woman and possible foul play. Don't believe me? Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson, who has comically voiced his exasperation with "white women we love", recently recounted a number of such cases : "Natalee Holloway...her predecessor, the Runaway Bride [Jennifer Wilbanks]...Laci Peterson. Elizabeth Smart. Lori Hacking. Chandra Levy. JonBenet Ramsey." Robinson even lumps in the creation of the Jessica Lynch (remember her?) myth as a byproduct of this craze.

Never mind that a countless number of people go missing every day (roughly 2,000 on average), and that the only cases highlighted by the media happen to be the ones involving young, white, reasonably attractive white women. The important question is Who Cares? Unfortunately, despite the complete lack of newsworthiness in the Holloway, Wilbanks, et al., stories, "Missing Woman" coverage gets terrific ratings. Maybe it was a novel personal story the first time, but come on, people!

In an ideal world, serious news would dominate the headlines, but let's be serious--there's not really widespread public interest there. I'm no news purist either, preferring my gloom-and-doom with a healthy mix of sports and pop culture news just like everyone else. Will Terrell Owens sulk his way out of Philly? Are Angelina and Brad a couple? Those stress-free issues do wonders to take our minds off of the latest report on car bombs and orphans with diseases.

Nonetheless, the saturated 24/7 coverage and endless "in-depth specials" on the most inane topics have become nauseating. I wish I could say the cable news networks are turning off viewers, but actually, they've found their meal ticket. Where does that leave the rest of us fed up boob-tube watchers? It's a nice day outside, I think I'll take a hike.

If only more people would do the same, metaphorically at least, the next time the news networks decided to sensationalize more crap.

Last edited Aug 22.


Kevin said...

I'm with ya. On the first four paragraphs, at any rate.

Neha said...

well, i agree with you, but, while the media probably does publicize these stories only because young, attractive white women attract attention, and hence viewers/listeners/etc., i think that it is important to publicize such crimes every once in a while to keep everyone on their guard, regarding how common it is for people to go missing. maybe journalists could use a more proactive approach, like publicizing new methods of finding criminals, or preventing people from going missing, or something.