Wednesday, July 06, 2011

News I Can't Use

Last night, a friend asked what I thought of the Casey Anthony verdict. I told him I'd given it no thought whatsoever. Couldn't care less. It's not that I have no concern for a dead toddler, it's just that I refused to be manipulated by Nancy Grace and her ilk into caring for any particular dead kid, when so many more of them die or are abused each year in this country, without any media outlets choosing them as a cause celebre. The same goes with stories about kidnapped blonde teenage girls. Enough already.

I'm continually amazed by Americans' fascination with crimes against people they had no connection to, direct or otherwise. This is the basis of far too much of our news coverage in this country. Watch any local TV newscast and see stories right off the police blotter -- this person was mugged on this street, this warehouse caught fire, this bank was burglarized, this little puppy was caught in the crossfire of two gangs having a gunfight, and on and on. Unless you personally know anyone involved in the story, why do you care?

Even when I was on the air every day, I never talked about these stories, and I never heard the public talking about them, either. Yet because they have a visceral quality (and because the station can do a live shot from the scene of the crime), they get more airtime than the issues that really do affect the lives of everyday Americans. Of course, it's much more complex to talk about economic issues, education funding, the corrupt banking system, and why we're involved in three wars -- and I don't expect local TV news producers to focus on those issues, but the day in day out parade of harmed strangers just drives me away.

I'm sure the ratings spiked for the cable news outlets after the Anthony verdict. They and their broadcast news counterparts are going to now drain every last drop out of the reaction to the jury's decision, and I'm sure Diane Sawyer is negotiating with an agent for some of those jurors to do a primetime special that will exploit the story for a full hour.

But I won't be watching, because I don't care. And I seriously doubt that, deep down, any of this matters to you, either.

Update at 4:28pm: ABC just announced that they will, in fact, have an interview with one of the Casey Anthony jurors tonight. "Nightline" anchor Terry Moran says that, despite what you may believe, they did not pay for access. Either way, it's a waste of resources.