As a decade of Barataria approaches, the stories from 10 years ago have a strange relevance. This piece is dated for two reasons – there are still local newspapers of interest and there is yet to be a staggering facebook phenom. But the principle is the same. It’s not that the news is fake as much as it is largely irrelevant. It might as well be fake. The devolution over the last decade is staggering – yet it could have been predicted. I didn’t. But the point still stands.
How many times have we read the really big story on the front of the newspaper with great interest? How often have we talked about it with our friends and colleagues the next day?
I am always amused by the kinds of stories that make it to the front of the paper. Scandals among leaders are always good fodder. A large shooting might get a lot of ink. And in all of this, rarely do we get an explanation as to why we are supposed to care about it.
Newspapers used to be very local, so the top story was about someone with a direct affect on your life – just by their proximity. Add in the latest reports on soybean futures, and people had a direct reason to be interested. The StarTribune of Minneapolis still does a decent job, at least on a slow Monday, by leading off with Highway 36 reconstruction and an in-depth on recruiting minority workers. I could see caring about those stories.
The problem with most of what we consider “news”, be it about leaders or celebrities or even events far away, is that it is really a kind of mind candy. So little of it actually has anything to do with our lives. We are obviously a very care-free people if that is what we focus our attention on, yes?
When USA Today first came out, it was decried as “McNews” for its color and ability to summarize news across the country. What goes unsaid is that the nutritional value of more august papers like the NY Times is not much better, at least in terms of relevance to readers. Many key policy matters that could affect us in the long run, such as deficit and energy dependence, are rarely covered at all. Horse-race elections and the personalities that define them are. Like a Big Mac diet, we have become fat and sick relying on this prepackaged stuff.
Real news that actually affects our lives might seem boring. We have clearly become spoiled by a rather good life. Personally, I’d rather stay a bit boring.