A few years back we participated in a silly game at Chinese restaurants. When reading the fortune cookie, we would always add the phrase “in bed” to the fortune. That phrase changed to entire fortune and made the whole thing much funnier. Remembering that little game has caused me to consider adding the phrase “or not” to much of what is reported as news today. Let me show you how this would work.
Just this morning I heard the latest dire warning about the melting of the Arctic ice. We are being told that this could cause all sorts of destruction and world calamity. I decided to add the phrase, “or not”. See how this changes the entire news report? How about this one? The world’s economy is near collapse, “or not”. Bird flu could kill millions across the world, “or not”. One of my favorites comes from a few years ago. The population of the world is outgrowing our ability to produce food, “or not”.
What is the message of this essay? I think news reporting has changed dramatically over the years from what is fact, to what is a possibility. The design of the new reporting appears to be scare tactics. This would seem to be the way the media intends to remain viable and stay in business.
When you add to this speculative reporting the all new “commentary”, news takes on a whole new meaning. Rather than just reporting the facts of what has happened, media now seems to want us to know what could happen and further to let us know how we are supposed to feel about the as yet non-event. I don’t know about you but I personally don’t know anyone who is competent to tell me correctly how I should feel about anything. In addition I much prefer that the media just report what has happened and let the future take care of itself.
How are we served by knowing what some expert thinks about what could happen? In addition, how are we served by some talking head’s opinion of how we should react to the possibility of some future event which could or could not even occur?
I suspect that much of this is happening because the media has gotten the idea that they and only they are the best judge of what you need to know. They and only they are the best judge of how you should feel. You’ve heard the phrase, “We report, you decide”? The problem with that of course is they decide what they report. Often the truth is a casualty of such thought.
It should come as no shock to you that television news programs and newspapers in general are in big trouble, Readership is down as well as advertising revenue. Will they survive into the future? Sorry, I can’t give you an answer because I am not an expert. What I do know is this. They have lost me and a number of my associates. We choose other sources for our news and often cross reference to make sure we are getting all the facts. If there was truth in all the speculation of what has been reported in the past, none of us would be here now.
The truth is that no one can predict the future. Nobody knows what is coming next. Media scare tactics will serve no one including them. The future will take care of itself and intelligent people will also. Until then I will try to continue to point out the absurdity of what is going on, “or not”.
Ron Scarbro March 10, 2009
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