I happened to catch the afternoon broadcast of a local TV news station this Fourth of July. The “top stories” were the usual mindless pabulum — 10 full minutes on the beach alcohol ban, a story about some old guy in East San Diego who decorates his house with gajillion American flags every Independence Day, and a piece about a 70-year-old woman in India who gave birth to twins (which I’m sure will turn out to be a hoax, but hey, they had time to kill).
Meanwhile, on that very day, people were dying in Iraq and Darfur, Iran was playing war games with its nuclear weapons and the planet was (and is) having a meltdown.
That’s the TV news for you. Its like the media equivalent of a hospital gown — covering just enough of its ass to stay on the air, but flimsy beyond belief.
And maybe it’s not just the television news. Alisa Miller, head of Public Radio International, recently gave a TED Talk about the American media, complete with a world map (pictured) that demonstrates how meager international news coverage is in the states (the big blue bubble is the U.S., of course, and the big yellow bubble is Iraq).
Reports about the death of Anna Nicole Smith, for example, received 10 times the coverage of the IPCC’s report on global warming and surpassed coverage news about every other country in the world, except Iraq. Turns out “it’s cheaper” to cover Britney and Anna Nicole.
“Cheap” certainly is the right word for it.