Every morning, before I go running, I check the local news for a few minutes. It’s more of a sanity check than anything else, just to make sure I’m not going out into nuclear fallout or a gang riot or something like that.
This morning, our local CBS affiliate led their entire day’s news with one of those “BREAKING NEWS” graphics and stinger music. Uh-oh, I thought. What’s happened now? Massive violence in Iraq? A terrible fire in local mountains? A police standoff? A major death? The discovery of
torture prisons alternative interrogation technique centers on U.S. soil?
Nope. The BREAKING NEWS was this: Paris Hilton had been arrested for a DUI.
What. The. Frack!!! How in god’s green earth is that BREAKING NEWS? I mean, forget why I should give a rat’s ass,because I will posit that her arrest is entertainment news, perhaps even real news, since she is a person of some notoriety. But BREAKING NEWS? How does this demand my immediate attention in any way, shape, or form?
It doesn’t. You know it, I know it, and the producers at KCBS 2 most certainly know it. They just don’t care, or have surrounded the part that cares with layers and layers of cynicism and money.
Look, living in Los Angeles means that you have to live with celebrity gossip, car chases and recaps of popular reality shows masquarading as news on the morning TV shows. I’ve made my peace with this, especially since I can get hard news on the Net 24-7, and I understand how ratings pressure (and the Net) have accelerated the race to the bottom. A race, BTW, that meant that not only was the Paris arrest BREAKING NEWS, they sent a reporter out to do a stand-up from the spot where she’d been arrested!!
And what the hell, I’m certainly not so high and mighty that I didn’t experience a little schadenfreude over the whole Mel Gibson and Paris Hilton incidents (and noticed that they called her “Socialite Paris Hilton,” not “Actress Paris Hilton” or “Singer Paris Hilton,” HA!), or don’t enjoy entertainment news. As you may have noticed, this isn’t a website about politics; we aren’t exactly saving lives here. But we don’t bill ourselves that way either.
It’s just that this extremely rough summer — with wars in Iraq and Lebanon, skyrocketing gas prices, chaos in our airports, etc. — has been chock full of this crap, with these cosmically minor things taking up huge chunks of mindshare. The capper, of course, was the unforgiveable two weeks of total news hysteria over that creepy guy who lied about killing that little girl a decade ago. And sigh, I know that the ratings went up, so people were interested, which makes it news, right?
So what is to be done? Hell, I don’t know. But maybe, just maybe, reserve the BREAKING NEWS wolf-cry for actual news? Would that be so difficult? It would? Oh, never mind.