By Steve Stajich
Full disclosure: Because our home has a few workout devices in a room, we tend to watch television news channels during our exertions to stave off aging by means of fitness regimens. Because of a nearby TV set, that results in a lot of hours spent ingesting the news products of both CNN and MSNBC on a daily basis. One naturally tends to follow favorite talking heads on these outlets, although of late the unrelenting river of news flowing from the White House seems to have an almost hypnotic effect: You can’t stop waiting for next shoe to drop in what has become a tsunami of dropping footwear.
And full confession: This column has not found a resolution for a quandary that has existed since last November. I would relate this quandary as follows: If, in November of 2016, earth had been invaded by rapacious lizards from the planet Big Mistakeo and there was no way to ignore the destruction and hurt those monsters were inflicting by feeding on the planet every day since then, would it be responsible for this column to turn it’s gaze away from that and focus on local news?
This is my way of stating a dilemma: Readers of The Mirror likely don’t need more “analysis” of everything that is happening because of the election, but is it responsible to ignore events such as the current POTUS blabbing security secrets to the very Russians he may have been in cahoots with on a cyber election fixing scandal in favor of a deserving story on a local news event? Could I become Nero fiddling with my computer as Rome burned?
With all that as a kind of personal preamble, I now ask you: Just what is it that we want or need from the news in these times of distress and anxiety in our nation?
Since the inauguration there has been an acute sense that news organizations were going to be relegated to the role of life guards blowing whistles at edge of the White House swimming pool. That was born of the President’s obsession – which bizarrely continues today – with the turnout numbers at his inaugural. Claims by POTUS about crowd size were instantly dismissed with side by side comparison photos of his inaugural to the previous one.
But news services can’t just dedicate themselves to reestablishing over and over that our current President is a chronic and persistent liar. We have that. In some ways, it’s Kardashian: There’s no need to remind the public that that family doesn’t actually do anything that matters. The frightening difference is that everything the current President does or says or lies… matters.
In days of yore, reporters went out and discovered news; hunted it like big game to bring back to the village. There was no Watergate until Woodward and Bernstein smelled it and followed the scent. Now it feels as though all news is merely reaction followed by a probing for the truth about that which is being reacted to. That won’t help us if news organizations simply wait for the horrific: A drastic U.S. military action against North Korea or buses pulling up to gather “illegals” and Muslims.
But should news be the generators of a path to get us out from where we are? This may not sound like me talking, but how fair or correct is it if news providers take the initiative in setting the stage for impeachment? It’s healthy and our right to have those discussions as citizens of the United States. But should corporate-owned news entities be laying the groundwork for impeachment, especially if their motivation is only to create the next running story that can entice and hold audience?
That possibly gets us to the job of news to provide context. Well, what are we hearing on TV news outlets with regularity right now? “It seems this President hews to no precedent whatsoever!” and constant reminders of how if even one of the current President’s worrisome mistakes (thus far) had been committed at any other time in history, he’d be packing his Versace luggage and permanently returning to New York or Mar a Lago right now… at taxpayer expense of course.
The President as a candidate gave news organizations the gift of a self-generating narrative, and their having fallen in love with that easy “beat” to cover contributed directly to our current crisis. Now they’re able to sustain their tendency for lassitude by simply getting up in the morning and checking the Tweets and Sean Spicer footage. Again, great “breaking news” coverage of something horrible perpetrated deep in the night by a narcissistic amateur won’t be enough, especially to the victims. And citizens are the ones who must decide the course of action to take. It’s our country, not his. Right now we are living moment to moment inside a vortex of lies, concealment and reaction to same. Better minds than mine know this could be a welcome mat for tyranny. We need the truth, but it must be pursued… not simply delivered as an interesting anecdote after the forest has burned.