Sunday, July 31, 2016

Local News

There is an old adage that says "all politics is local" and to those of us who live in the areas of the country designated by the media as "battleground states" the meaning of the adage is all too clear. This trope of the political class cannot, however, be said to be true of the local news. Today’s screed is brought to you by what is likely to be the epitome of the problem with the consolidation of the electronic media that has been happening for years now – then diminishment of the requirement for the "News" to be "news."

One of the local stations carried a story about a shooting this morning. They stayed on the story for a few minutes and I wondered why they chose this story to fill their time. Admittedly, this was a sad story, some kid had been injured in a home break-in. But the fact of the matter is that it was a story that took place in some town in Washington State that I had never heard of. This was followed by a story or rough weather in Phoenix, Arizona. I looked – they were not displaying their "Around the Nation" banner – they were showing their "Local Interest" banner. So, we were in the "Local News" segment. Hmmm…
local [loh-kuhl]
1.      pertaining to a city, town, district, or other place as opposed to an entire state, region, or country
(The local businesses are celebrating the opening of a new light rail line to their area.)
news [nooz, nyooz]
1.      a report of a recent event; information; or intelligence of importance
(The local family news is that Jimmy has gotten into the University of Central Florida!)
2.      the presentation of a report on recent or new events in print or electronic media
(Did you read the news in the Denver Post this morning about the airport improvements?)
3.      the collective representation of such reports
(The news this morning was so upbeat!)
 Admittedly, a crime against a kid, no matter where it happens, is bad. And admittedly, it is worth knowing about – but let’s have a little perspective. There is enough actual local news that they don’t cover at all – the fact that the local Republican legislators are meeting with a group that is in the business of presenting county and state legislators with pre-written bills that they want sponsored in the local and state governments across the country. You know… that kind of thing; the kind of thing that actually is news and actually is local. This organization presents lawmakers with "grass-roots" legislation that they want pushed nationally to do things like limit the freedom of speech on college campuses and other public venues, and degrade the environmental protections that keep our air breathable and our water potable.

Aside from wasting their time with non-local non-news in the "local newscast" this trend may have another impact that – if I am correct – may go a long way to explaining one of the news stories of last week.

You may have seen the screed that John Oliver did on Last Week Tonight in which he makes the case that the recent Republican Convention emphasized Feelings over Facts. In this piece there was a clip of Newt Gingrich arguing "facts" in a CNN interview. In the clip Gingrich opines that violent crime in the US has risen and that the average American feels less safe. Alisyn Camerota pointed out that this is not supported by fact and he argues that what the average American "feels" is more important than what the facts say.

Perhaps, if it is true that the American public "feels" less safe, though objectively there is no evidence to support that they actually are less safe is because they are constantly told by the political right that they are less safe. Perhaps it is because they see "local" news that is not local that local stations throw in to fill the air.

There are studies (old ones albeit, but I would be willing to bet that they are still valid) that the average American viewer does not know that CNN is not a Local station. This blurring of what is local and what is news leaves the average American who is either too busy or too lazy to know the difference between what it true and what the politicians would like you to believe is true.

Wherever you are today, I hope that you will take a few minutes out of your day to look for news from credible attributed sources and not accept the things that the political machines want you to feel is true.

Don Bergquist - July 31, 2016 - Lakewood, Colorado   USA

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