According to Sam and Jim Commenting on things that irk us off, make us laugh out loud or just seem too weird too believe According to Sam and Jim: Smiling at the Bad News

Monday, March 26, 2012

Smiling at the Bad News

Sam and I are flummoxed by the way we present news in this country (you like that word, flummoxed?).

We were reading the newspaper this morning and were struck, as we often are, about the juxtaposition of bad news and advertising. Just one page of our paper featured the following stories: French police kill suspect after standoff; Water woes could lead to global instability; Houston (Whitney) died from drowning, coroner says; Pair spotted having sex on gay cruise plead guilty; Chief temporarily steps down after fatal shooting.

The bad news page was supported by advertisements for a wedding expo; a wholesale auction of home d├ęcor; and for the services of a local dentist. On another section the obituaries were supported by a full-page car dealer ad the next page over.

But newspaper advertising has difficulty competing with television advertising for pure schlock and bad taste. Watching the news on TV is like running the gauntlet of every drug ever manufactured. If you don’t do drugs after watching advertisements for pills to cure flatulence, the urge to pee, the need for a four-hour erection, for heartburn, for arthritis, for colds, for asthma and God knows what else, you just aren’t paying attention. And these ads support news about war in the Middle East, the latest murder and mayhem in our neighborhoods, the skyrocketing cost of gas, the latest sex scandal involving some politician and so on.

Possibly the worst offense of TV news is the way the anchor people and their supporting reporters segue from bad news, such as the devastation wrought by a tornado, to good news, such as Princess Kate mixing it up with school children. The newscasters manage this seque with a big smile as if to say, “Anyway, everything’s okay now.”

The anchors and reporters try to look circumspect about bad news, but the way they smile and carry on when they switch to apparent good news makes you believe they were just dying to yuk it up. They might report, “Gunman kills eight, shoots self,” with a straight face, but inside, they’re probably stifling the urge to smile and say “Yay! SOB got what he deserved (which he did) or something like that. And you just know when they are reporting bad news that they are so glad to be able to do it they often call something as mundane and low priority as a shoplift, breaking news. They love to call items breaking news. They almost choke with happy tears to be able to tell us they have an “exclusive,” to report. Of course their exclusive might have appeared on another news channel a day or two previously. If a news story has already been reported one place, it also will appear somewhere else, which begs the question, “If I’ve already seen this once or twice somewhere else, how can this station call it news?

Actually, the worst offenders of good taste as far as news is concerned might be the weather reporters. How those people can stand in front of a weather map showing winter’s devastating effects on our environment with big cheesy smiles is beyond me. They act as if they’re performing some kind of public service by reassuring us with their smiling countenances through all the bad weather reports.

Sam and I say three bags of poop on the way our news is presented these days.

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