Thursday, March 15, 2012

Crime Pays, Rats Play, and Nobody Cares

A friend pointed out to me yesterday that I hadn't posted a blog since February 20. There's a reason for that: I usually only blog when I feel I have something to say. Of course, I do have thoughts running through my head all the time about various topics and think about writing them down but don't for whatever reason.

What I've been thinking about lately is the death of newspapers and the effect it has had on society. It is harder to know what the important stories of the day are now that there is no print product to speak of to pore over while having breakfast or coffee. In the early 1970s, I lived in California. The favorite part of my day was reading the Los Angeles Times, where I did my writing internship in college. At the time, it was considered one of the top four newspapers in the nation. The others being The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post. I was lucky enough to spend a decade as an editor at the latter.

With that being said, I guess I could be considered somewhat of a news junkie and am not a fan of what is considered "news" in the 21st Century. That is, I don't really care how much Botox or how many implants the Kardashians get or how many kids Brangelina acquires. I care more about news that matters. And, of course, I care about news of the weird. You know, those outrageous stories that make you sit up and say, "What the hell?!"

For example, earlier this week, a friend in Florida told me about a law a D.C. councilwoman had passed two years ago to save rat families from extermination by relocating them. Virginia officials worried they would be sent over the Potomac River to infest their state. I Googled the story, as I am wont to do, and sure enough, my friend was correct. Honest to God. I thought it was just a bizarre enough tale of how screwed up local government was that I had to post on my Facebook wall. I thought for sure my friends would be commenting like crazy on that post, but none did. I posted it three times only to get one "like" on it by my niece's fiancé.

I decided that people did not want to click on any links that directed them to any sort of news stories and tested that theory again by posting a link to a story about a convicted murderer in Los Angeles who had drawn more than $30,000 in unemployment checks, which his family cashed and put into an account for him. Again, I thought this was an outrageous example of how a bureaucracy can make a major mistake that goes unnoticed. And again, the only people who noticed or even cared about the story were two cousins of mine in Minnesota. One even pointed out what I was thinking: Why wasn't anybody commenting or getting outraged about this story?

Post something about Ashley Judd's chipmunk cheeks, though, and everybody is all over that story in a heartbeat.

I'm sorry, but I grew up in an era when we had the Huntley-Brinkley Report on television and we had the Vietnam War for supper every night. Our young men were being killed over there and we cared. In recent years, the same thing happened in Iraq, but nobody seemed to care. Supposedly, President Obama announced the end of combat in Iraq and started bringing troops home in December 2011, but does anybody know that?

So, I am wondering when did things change? When did people stop caring about real news? Where is the outrage?


  1. You're in luck. I'm here to tell you that the outrage exists - just maybe not on Facebook. I don't know the full psychological explanation for why this is, but many (most?) FB friends won't comment at all on anything that has the danger of inviting debate and discussion. Not only that - most won't even bother to "like" something, even if they fervently do. Like it that is.

    I subscribe to The Daily - which is an iPad-enabled news publication. Like many news outlets, the digital paper has a political bias. Fortunately for me, I disagree with them and so this offers an easy outlet for my need to debate subjects - not with the intent of intentionally creating conflict, but to challenge blind knee-jerk assumptions so as to shed light. Often I find that I learn along the way - and on the rare occasion, I change my mind on a particular issue.

    The neat thing about this paper is that it has a vibrant, active and entirely engaged bunch of subscribers who comment back and forth. Since none of us know each other (and most use a pseudonym) there is probably more freedom to say what they think. The debates get heated sometimes and the odd jerk will come in there and resort to ad hominem attacks. These ill-mannered trolls are easily identified and dismissed.

    Quite frankly - I love the comment sections (which, by the way have nested comments so that you can easily target your replies)! You'll never see that kind of dynamic in paper newspapers. One can write a letter to the editor (as I have done and I imagine you have as well), and it *might* see the light of day. There is no way you're going to have the ability to participate in the give-and-take dynamic of one on one debate though, which is sad.

    Eileen, I have to ask: how is it for you in real life? Do you have a group of friends with different political views who don't mind debating each other? I don't, but used to - and we had so much fun. The fact that we all had an underlying respect for each other, as well as the knowledge that none of our debating was personal, made those debates fun and often illuminating.

  2. That is good to know. Yes, you are probably right. I am one of those that steers clear of volatile discussions on Facebook, especially anything that is politically charged because commenting on politics only serves to divide and alienate "friends." It's too bad that we self-censor in these situations. I know among my true friends that I can speak my mind and not be judged for having an opinion. Thanks for the great comment!