July 10, 2008

What's Up with the News?

Is it just me, or has the "real" news gotten super boring recently? How did things become so dry and dull all of a sudden? Is it because the Hillary vs. Barack primary race took us for such a roller coaster ride that we're just spoiled and bloodthirsty for more excitement? I'm sorry, but Obama vs. McCain doesn't have the same level of intrigue or suspense- not yet anyway. I can only handle so many reports on salmonella jalapenos, economic gloom, gas prices, food shortages, natural disasters, Beijing Olympics controversy and the Iraq war. It's not that these events are not significant, but there is a limit to the number of stories I can stomach about factories closing down and famines in the Third World.

I never thought I would say this, but I think I'm actually more interested in local news right now than national and international news! It's painful to hear myself say such a dastardly thing. A year ago, I would have considered this statement to be a form of current affairs "blasphemy." How could city ordinances and neighborhood board meetings be more important than what happens in the halls of Congress or the United Nations? Why should a local parade make the front page when people are dying by the thousands in Africa? I never thought I would be one of those people that tuned in after the commercial break to hear about "tips for traveling with children" and other non-news stories. "Give me the real news!" I would say.

Why have I changed? Maybe it's because I have a kid now or maybe it's because I've lived in the same quiet suburb for close to 4 consecutive years. In any case, it appears that I'm not the news purist I once fashioned myself to be. In yesterday's paper, I found myself reading the "Central Oahu People" insert to find out about recent arrests made in Wahiawa as well as a First Hawaiian Bank Foundation grant of $25,000 for construction and renovation of a neighborhood church in Mililani. Thanks to the public controversy surrounding Honolulu's rail transit project, I have even learned the names of all 9 members of our City Council! How did traffic accidents, local burglaries and shopping center rennovations ever get so interesting? Am I a true "local" now?

Perhaps a brief history of my news consumption journey is in order. Like many typical kids, the Sunday comics used to be the only part of the newspaper I would ever touch. When my dad bought me some baseball cards and taught me how to interpret all the box score abbreviations and statistics, I started to read the sports section. Eventually, I figured out how to look up movie times and read reviews of the latest films when they opened. My news digest throughout high school was little more than sports and entertainment, with a few major stories thrown in such as the O.J. trial and the Lewinsky scandal. I also subscribed to "wholesome" magazines like Breakaway and Campus Life, but it would be tomfoolery to suggest there was any news content in there unless you included feature stories on Christian dating advice or interviews with Petra, a legendary band that pioneered the Christian rock genre with not-so-subtle album titles like Petra Means Rock.

A "Foundations of Politics" class I took during my freshman year in college required that I read The New York Times' front section every weekday which was more of an ego boost than an educational exercise that I could actually appreciate at the time. The intellectual benefits of the class, like much of my college experiences, lay dormant until after finished school and had time to put the pieces together. The 2000 Presidential primary season went completely over my head and all I knew was that Al Gore was silly for claiming to have invented the Internet. No wonder he lost the election (...wait a second). The Florida recount was interesting and suspenseful for a while, but most of the significance was lost on me because I was still submerged in the sports pages trying to improve my fantasy football acumen.

As I mentioned in a previous post, my post-graduation news internship at WGN radio exposed me to the complex world of politics, economics and social inequality. I was able to observe the 2004 primary season up close and part of my job was to dissect the campaign rhetoric in order to extract sound bytes from speeches and press conferences. I still remember John Kerry winning the nomination on Super Tuesday, the Madrid train bombings, the graphic images from Fallujah, Condi Rice testifying before the 911 Commission, Donald Rumsfeld deflecting questions about Abu Graib and Scott McClellan explaining why WMD's we not part of the rationale for war.

Interestingly enough, I also remember being in the newsroom on Illinois' primary election night in March 2004 (shame on me for not voting that day) when some guy named Barack Obama won the nomination to run for the U.S. Senate. It's fascinating to think that his now-famous keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention that year was delivered while he was still just a lowly state senator, "a skinny kid with a funny name." Even in Illinois, many people didn't know who he was until that moment. I remember playing fly-on-the-wall during the many heated off-air debates between the conservative and liberal reporters at the station, but I can guarantee that no one in that radio newsroom thought Obama could be on the verge of being elected President in 2008. Makes you wonder what things will be like in 2012- the return of Romney or Huckabee? A run by Bobby Jindal or John Thune? Half the fun is in the speculation.

It's hard to believe that 4 years have gone by since I paced those Windy City streets to and from the Metra station at Madison and Canal. So much has happened in the world. For me, the year 2004 marked the beginning of a more serious personal interest in the national and international news scene. Thanks to one of those limited-time-only promotion offers, I even subscribed to The Economist for a couple years before recognizing that although it ranks among the most refined and informative news periodicals in existence, some of the content went beyond my level of sophistication, not to mention my budget thanks to a subscription price of $120 a year! Since the headlines of recent days have been relatively uninteresting, I've decided to reflect on the events of the last 4 years by composing a couple verses to the tune of Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire." Sing along with me...

YouTube, Harry Potter, rising oil, falling dollar
Rumsfeld, immigration, Condoleeza Rice
Hybrid cars, housing bubble, Don Imus got in trouble
Darfur, Hezbollah, Beckham and Posh Spice

(musical interlude)

Podcasts, FaceBook, Idol's got a new Cook
Sarkozy, Gordon Brown, Fidel Castro stepping down
Gitmo convoluted, Saddam executed
New Orleans' levees broke, everyone left town

Chorus: WE DIDN'T START THE FIRE, IT WAS ALWAYS BURNING SINCE THE WORLD'S BEEN TURNING...

Tsunamis, Netflix, Kim Jong Il's latest tricks
Brokeback, Blu-Ray, Jeremiah Wright
John Kerry's flip flop, Red Sox back on top
New pope, troop surge, Benazir's last fight

Mac versus PC, House Speaker Pelosi
Terri Schiavo, craigslist, Barack and Michelle bump fists
CIA leak case, Tour De France disgrace
Myanmar, Congo war, Mugabe and MySpace

WE DIDN'T START THE FIRE...

5 comments:

Dad & Mom said...

We both enjoyed reading your latest blog. It was well written. You're right- it seems that after Hilary/Obama the news is so drab. Maybe we'll have a worldwide economic crash or something to get us reading again.

luckypopo said...

I too find myself the local news. I tend to skim over the international news. I enjoyed your fly-on-the-wall comments about the newsroom discussions at WGN when Obama was first elected. Wow! To think you could have voted for him back then!

Eman said...

I say you copyright the lyrics and ask BJ to add them to his concert versions! The boys next to the pool would be proud and you could sing it along with sweet home mangiamelli...

The Common Loon said...

It should be noted that eman was responsible for introducing me to the song over 10 years ago. Unlike Billy Joel's original, my add-ons are not in chronological order, nor do they follow his cleverly crafted structure of 2 lyrical lines per historical year.

I almost forgot about sweet home mangiamelli, a Faith Academy classic.

Cheryl said...

My favorite part of this song is how you ironically rhymed Condoleeza Rice with Posh Spice. Hilarious.