Friday, March 4, 2011

News of the Weird

by Susan McBride

I remember when weird news was often tacked onto the end of a nightly broadcast, usually in the vein of "stupid criminals" clips where a bank robber wrote his stick-up note on the back of his own deposit slip or an "aw, shucks" tale with an orangutan adopting a baby tiger at the local zoo. You know what I mean.

Now every time I turn on the TV or click on an Internet newspaper, it doesn't take much searching to find news of the absurd. It's front page headlines. Journalism has turned into "Entertainment Tonight," and that's not a good thing.

So far this week, all I've seen is Charlie Sheen's face everywhere, professing his fabulousness, when it's pretty clear he's got problems even bigger than his ego. I saw an article that said a lot of stars who got in trouble this past week owe Charlie a big favor for keeping them off the cover of People magazine. Like Christina Aguilera who ended up in the drunk tank with her boyfriend after a bender. And Galliano, the Dior designer (er, ex-Dior designer) who made more than a few anti-Semitic remarks caught on someone's cell phone camera. I don't even know what Mel Gibson's up to lately because Charlie's superseded his baby-mama drama by a mile.

Oh, yeah, and there are revolutions galore going on in the Middle East. And we're still in a recession with all sides of the political aisle at war because everyone seems intent on helping themselves instead of fixing things.

But, oh, no, let's hear more about Charlie and his "goddesses" aka the porn stars who live in his house with him and help him "take care" of his twin boys. Oops, nix that. His almost ex-wife (whom he was accused of threatening to kill) has gotten the kids back, thanks to a court order and the LAPD. Wow, I just can't keep up with all the Sheen-anigans! It feels like an A&E "Intervention" marathon without an ending.

I just wish someone would please stop the madness. Why does the media keep having this guy on when it's clear he needs serious help? I'm not sure how his delusions and obvious self-destruction constitute entertainment.

Then I think about the dystopian young adult best-seller THE HUNGER GAMES, which features teens killing each other all in the name of sport. I hope we never sink that low, but it does seem like we're turning people's misery into live entertainment, and it's even worse than "Jersey Shore" and "The Bachelor" combined.

As a J-School major, I'm disappointed at what counts for news these days. Walter Cronkite must be turning over in his grave. Give me stories that matter: about regular hard-working people who are making a difference, small businesses that are thriving despite the financial mess, research scientists working on cures for disease, and explorers unearthing new species or stars. And not the kind of "stars" that seem to rule television and the Internet ad nauseum. Those I can live without.


  1. Bravo! and Amen!

    When did people's real-life miseries become entertainment for the masses?


  2. Amen, Susan! When I was a kid, I wasn't allowed to watch "Love, American Style" because my parents thought it was too risque. Now, when I'm flipping through the channels, I'm horrified by what I see, and then think about my kids seeing this stuff. It's horrible. In this house, we use all of this material for "teachable moments" and that has served us well so far. Maggie

  3. Amen, Sister!

    Even local news stations have gone so overboard to be hip and fresh that there's even a sensational quality there these days.

    Like you, I'm a former journalist and I miss all the same kinds of stories you mentioned, Susan.

    Sheen is a train wreck and proof positive that people like to stop and stare.

  4. Marian, it's like this whole reality show craze has spread into journalism as well and shock value is prized above facts. And political coverage--oy! Nothing seems objective anymore. Real reporting seems like a lost art.

    Maggie, I say to Ed all the time as I'm flipping through channels, "Oh, my gawd, what kind of crap is on these days for anyone to see?" The stuff they have on Spike and MTV, for example, should come with warning labels at the bottom of the screen throughout! It takes extraordinary parenting these days to raise kids who are well-adjusted and not screwed up by what passes for entertainment. I remember when more adult programming (and I'm talking "Starsky & Hutch") couldn't come on until 9 p.m. Central Time. My how things have changed!

    Laura, it's sad to see what journalism amounts to in the 21st century. I almost feel like everything is paid programming and nothing is just the unvarnished truth anymore. As for CS, oh, boy! It's scary how much air time that guy is getting when he needs to be in therapy and rehab. Enough already. Ugh.

  5. Thanks, Susan, good post.

    I was a J-school grad, too! (Indiana Universtiy--Go Big Red!)

    Agree with all you say and wanted to add that I am to the NECK with hearing over and over from these media outlets and corporations that they are only "giving people what they want and are interested in". I firmly believe that is no more than a cheap, easy, lazy excuse not to do better. What I think? I think people will stare at and listen to whatever you put in front of them and if it's of better quality and validity and shows stronger character, they'll take it and learn to like it! After all, doesn't taste and interest evolve for everyone based on what we're exposed to? Giving the people what they want my happy hind end!

    Oh, and I feel so badly especially for the little kids in the situation, not only for the obvious pain the adults are bringing to their lives, but for the never-ending documentation of their private lives that will follow them forever and for someone allowing these innocents to be photographed during horrible moments like being loaded into a van by county workers whisking them away from their low-rent father! Icky.

  6. I couldn't have said it better myself. It is disgusting how our fellow Americans put up with this junk.

    Why don't we find ways to help our children and adults with the growing rate of obesity?

    Lets not dare talk about the growing illiteracy rate in our country!!

    It amazes me everyday, to see our country in such "turmoil" or so "broke". How can businesses keep going under and millions and millions keep loosing their jobs; forcing us to depend on our government for unemployment and welfare. I guess it's because they spend millions of our dollars on their equipment to film such rotten filth with Charlie Sheen's drug addiction lifestyle. (He seems so proud of it, doesn't he?)

    When does it stop? Will it ever stop?

    I guess brilliant writers are forced to write this junk if they want to keep their jobs, it's sad, but true.

  7. We are in the process of watching a man die at his own hands. Sad. It happens over and over with these famous people who let their egos and their lusts get the better of them.

    And you're right, what we ought to be concerned with is poverty in our own country, and fear what's going on in the middle East. Well, come to think of it, maybe that's why they are putting so much focus on Charlie so we won't think about the scary stuff.


  8. Vicky, I feel sorry for those Sheen kids, too...and any kids who are thrust into the public eye when they're too little to understand what's going on (and what a mess the grown-ups are making of things). As for "giving the people what they want," all I can think of is "bread and circuses." They're trying to dumb us all down and/or numb us, I think!

    Tiffany, I agree that it's very hard to watch a super-rich egomanical celebrity self-destruct and think anything but, "Please!" when there are so many more important things going on in the world...and in our own backyard.

    Marilyn, you're right! I think they're using Charlie as a distraction so we don't notice everything else that's going wrong and/or not being addressed!

  9. They show it because we watch it. If everyone simply turned off their TV or whatever the minute Charlie's face (or the hype du jour) appeared, there wouldn't be any point in the media staying with it - and maybe we could turn our attention back to more important things.

  10. Linda, I am very thankful for the remote control so I can click away ASAP! Sometimes too much is, um, way too much. ;-)

  11. Well said, Susan!!
    And thank you for voicing what many of us are feeling... Enough with Charlie Sheen. ;)

  12. I remember when Princess Diana died, and it was blamed on her trying to flee from the paparazzi. Many people, including myself, refused to buy the gossip rags at the checkout stands in grocery stores and like places. That's how you stop this ridiculous reporting - you don't pay for it.

  13. Marilyn, every time I hear his name, I'm putting fingers in ears and going, "La la la la la!" ;-)

    Sandie, I think it's just getting worse and worse, particularly when the tabloids are responsible for "breaking" stories these days (like John Edwards' affair). It's a sad sign of the times.