No New is Bad News

The Currency of Current

Judith Klassen

Someday weai??i??ll view this period of media madness like folks did the light bulb. Yes, electric illumination is efficient, but also harsh, showing every crack in a face and every crumb in a corner. And what about all that downtime that unimpeded darkness imposed? With the flick of a switch, gone. Sure, progress is inevitable and tantalizing ai??i?? but it can be butt ugly. Take the news for instance. The rapidly evolving web – on this web keeps us up-to-the-minute on anything and everything, but vanished is the depth, and sometimes even the facts. Clearly progress is not synonymous with improvement. And with a populace hopped up and hungry for sound bites, the tarting-up of TV news has become a virulent pandemic with no vaccine.

Itai??i??s not the beat ai??i?? itai??i??s the banality.

In the United States they have redefined what passes for news: Wars are given kicky handles that elicit images of cheesy paperbacks, celebrity adoptions are considered foreign affairs, and presidential puppy choices are ai???our top story But it wasnai??i??t until recently that I felt a creeping unease about the future of news reportage in Canada. The other day at a news network launch a serious journalist awkwardly pitched the showai??i??s facelift ai??i?? sporting a jacket so violently pink it appeared she didnai??i??t want to be mistaken for game by the sharpshooters in the audience. Then came a brief speech from her respected colleague, a former Middle East war correspondent, who, while plugging the renovations, looked ready to dodge shrapnel and falling 2ai??? x 4ai???s. I donai??i??t blame the journalists. Theyai??i??re just hard-working people with good jobs they see slipping away ai??i?? unless they adapt, devolve, and bend over.

No news is bad news.

These are, after all, desperate days, and real journalism costs money. And, by the time that army of fact checkers have put on their boots ai??i?? Balloon Boy has flown halfway around the world. Citizen journalists have arisen en-masse to speculate on everything from politics to Janet Jacksonai??i??s nipple. Longtime CBS correspondent, and 60 Minutes veteran Morley Safer sums them up like this, ai???The blogosphere is no alternative, crammed as it is with ravings and manipulations of every nut with a And the ai???citizenai??? reaction to Saferai??i??s analyses has been ferocious. Like most things ai??i?? the truth is somewhere in the middle. The good news is, bloggers bring fresh perspectives, blunt truths, and are unaffected by advertizing dollars. The bad news is, they can be grammatically challenged, excessively biased, or just plain clueless. But some of those ai???citizensai??? are laid off ai??i?? or pissed off ai??i?? journalists forced to create their own gigs so that they can continue to write with integrity.

Funny is money.

Somewhere along the way, news and entertainment made like the Prince and the Pauper and switched clothing. We now have news pretending to be entertainment, and entertainment pretending to be news. If you want authentic political debate you turn to comedy offerings like The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, or Real Time with Bill Maher. Maherai??i??s opening monologues arenai??i??t simply pithy ai??i?? they bluntly address the real issues. Said Maher on the Balloon Boy phenomenon, ai???I donai??i??t want to say we have a special needs media, but they were literally mesmerized by a shiny When the laughs died down he added, ai???Why couldnai??i??t they do a quick report on the healthcare bill ai??i?? that was something empty that slipped Not so many chortles over the latter. He was delivering real news ai??i?? and real news is rarely jolly.

Currently, we canai??i??t log in and check our email without glimpsing a headline about some guy who traded his child for beer and meat, or a woman who is allergic to her husband. This glut of information makes us feel bloated and bewildered ai??i?? yet those empty calories leave us hungry for something of substance. And maybe a light bulb briefly clicks on, and for a moment we can see the media mess weai??i??re in. But then our iPhone pings with a twitter update ai??i?? and unconsciously, we reach for it.

Judith Klassen is a Toronto-based writer, performer, producer and host of the celeb interview show Judecast.

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