Saturday, October 17, 2009

A million human interest stories is a tragedy

Between the bubble boy incident, the awesome Gillmor article, and linguistic errors in stories I am knowledgeable about, I've been getting grumpier at the media.

Every morning, I'm forced to choose between New York 1, where a nice man conveys actual information by summarizing stories from various newspapers that morning, and the Today Show, where the real news is increasingly compressed into a couple of cursory minutes. As much as I find Today a much more pleasant aesthetic experience in the morning, with its energy, beautiful people, lush colors, soothing music, and high production values, I find myself opting for NY1 more and more.

I really don't understand where journalism got off on this obsession with small human dramas. I'm happy enough to listen to stories about fashion or food or saving money, but every in-depth interview about some local murder or some missing person or even a plane crash makes me die a little bit inside. This is not important news that the entire country needs to hear. As much as I love reality television, I like it best when it's not masquerading as news. Millions of people dying every year because of our "market" health-care system while the politicians we elected cave to audacious lobbying seems much more deserving of an incessant drumbeat of coverage than these sad but minor tragedies around the country.

This seems of a kind with the deterioration of the New Yorker and Wired, two of my favorite magazines, into cute little biographies that occasionally discuss the world surrounding these people. After a paragraph of Richard Holbrooke's resume, I'm much more interested in how he's going to fix Afghanistan. After a bit of the story of Shai Agassi, I'm much more interested in whether his plan is going to work. After about a page of sychophancy, I'm interested in factually accurate reporting.

I guess I shouldn't be surprised that facts and information are becoming less and less important in a country almost proud of being dumber than ever. But I'd like to think this whole Bubble Boy hoax/non-hoax thing might make reporters think twice about where they're directing our precious time. I'm sure CNN is really proud of getting the boy to blurt out that this might have been a hoax. But I think they should be embarrassed that they haven't produced any coverage about the health care debate that would inspire the country to rally together and start talking about facts.