This week it finally became clear to me that the move to electronic media may not be a good thing. All along I’ve been supporting the new way of getting our instant news, which seems to just move faster and faster. As an “internet person” I’m comfortable checking out the various sites that report breaking news on a minute by minute basis. The reliability of this cracked under scrutiny when the biggest story of the week was the shaky marriage of Jon and Kate Plus Eight.It was one of those non-stories involving reality stars who must generate controversy to boost ratings. I managed to steer almost completely clear of the stuff about “The Hills,” the hideous and ubiquitous stories of “Heidi and Spencer.” I was fairly successful seeing no evil, hearing no evil and speaking no evil. I tried to do the same with the Jon and Kate Plus Eight hullabaloo. I’m almost through the toughest part and I think I can make it if I stick to the plan.I vaguely know that there are multiple children involved. There is a reality show about them. There has been an affair, I think, and now there may be a divorce – all in front of the cameras while the world watches. This brings me to my epiphany — if this is what passes for news we’re doomed.Jon and Kate Plus Eight are everywhere. This isn’t a family that wanted privacy. On the contrary they wanted success and publicity. Now they’ve got it but it’s come at an enormous cost. See, look at that. I know way too much already. I know the whole story and I’ve never even seen an episode of the show. At least when newspapers were our primary way of getting our information there was an editor and standards to be upheld. The editor filtered what was important, ideally, without giving into our lower inclinations towards trash. But this is changing and it’s changing fast. Now, sensationalism passes as news and people can read whatever they want to read online.Oh, sure, plenty of web readers do suss out the real news stories. Some of us are addicted to news, in fact, and check sites ten times a day at a minimum. But it is becoming more and more likely that sensationalism will rule the day, corporate-driven, ratings grabbing, financially productive news will take the place of actual reporting.Part of the problem is that, among the sites I check daily, I keep tabs on the gossips. If you’re like me you have a routing where you check this site, that site and then this site again. One of the best of these is Yahoo News’ Starting Point Blog. It has all of the pertinent news that broke overnight. I am almost positive they steered clear of Jon and Kate Plus Eight.I suppose, in the end, that my plan to avoid the story of Jon and Kate mostly failed. At least I was never tempted to TIVO the show. I can console myself with that tiny smidgen of hope. We do know that this new trend is only moving in one direction. And I can devote the rest of my life to fighting the urge to take the bait, even though it gets harder and harder to not pay attention.
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