Talk­ing heads, self-ap­pointed ex­perts ru­in­ing TV ‘news’

Westside Eagle-Observer - - OPINION/NEWS - By Dodie Evans

A week or so ago, Ed­i­tor Randy posed a ques­tion in his Griz Bear col­umn, “Can you be­come too pa­tri­otic?,” which re­sulted in some deep think­ing (when you’re my age, deep is pretty shal­low wa­ter, just right for skip­ping rocks into the deeper pool). Any­way, his col­umn caused me to think about a ques­tion that has been float­ing, tum­bling or skip­ping around in the old brain, so I de­cided to pur­sue it a lit­tle: “Can you be ex­posed to too much news?”

Some­time back, maybe some­time this year, the old ‘cuff dis­cussed my frus­tra­tion with the three all-news net­works. (I use the term “news” loosely). Their cov­er­age dur­ing the past three or four weeks — make that six months — has in­volved Rus­sia. It’s Rus­sia this and Rus­sia that and Rus­sia … well, you know what I mean. Of course they (the heads of these news sys­tems) throw in some bits and bats about Oba­macare, the FBI, im­mi­gra­tion, fake news and, lately, re­vival of an ev­ery elec­tion year topic, voter fraud. Put all these to­gether along with the … whoops.…

Sorry about that, the phone just rang and I found I had won a great va­ca­tion pack­age from some­one some­where who uses a 479-787-9—- num­ber. An overly-friendly voice just wanted to ask me a few ques­tions, so I replied, “Could I ask you a ques­tion first?” Sound fa­mil­iar? I am so fed up with robo calls and their ir­rup­tive nui­sance. So many are hid­den be­hind a 479 and or a 787 num­ber. I sel­dom an­swer one, but I needed a breather from the past few para­graphs and my rant about too much news al­most turned into a rant against robo calls. So back to the news ques­tion, “Can you be ex­posed (hear or watch) too much news?”

First, I think news is ex­tremely im­por­tant. It was the free­dom of be­ing able to dis­pense news through­out the colonies that played an in­te­gral part in the foun­da­tion of our great na­tion. I won­der if nui­sance robo calls had been avail­able then if the revo­lu­tion would have oc­curred. Maybe, against robo calls? You get the pic­ture.

Any­way, news is im­por­tant. What is so dis­turb­ing and so dis­gust­ing so much of the time is when the talk­ing heads or self-ap­pointed ex­perts in­ject their slanted opin­ions into the news chan­nel. If they did it oc­ca­sion­ally and each such ses­sion was pre­ceded with the dis­claimer, “This is an opin­ion seg­ment,” and pos­si­bly an at­tach­ment, “which may or may not be true.…” But no way, June Bug (I dare not write Jose, it would be … what is that term? … po­lit­i­cally in­cor­rect.

News­pa­pers, our Arkansas Demo­crat-Gazette care­fully uses its edi­to­rial pages to present many dif­fer­ent opin­ions, and they are so la­beled. The let­ters to the ed­i­tor are a blast; some of­fer good opin­ions, some get way out in left field and of­ten seem to vi­o­late the prin­ci­ple that “per­sonal at­tacks and li­belous or defam­a­tory state­ments will not be pub­lished.” But, over­all, most writ­ers con­vey a think­ing process which com­ple­ments the guar­an­teed “free­dom of the press” which is as im­por­tant to­day as it was when our con­sti­tu­tion was writ­ten.

Maybe I’m just from the old school which en­joyed Wal­ter Cronkite and the other news an­chors who sat be­hind a desk and read pre­pared re­ports into a mike, and some­times there were even brief film clips that en­hanced some re­ports such as show­ing wrecks or dis­as­ter scenes or an oc­ca­sional politico an­swer­ing a ques­tion. If a re­sponse from an­other side of the ques­tion fol­lowed, it too was brief and didn’t in­clude a half dozen wanna-be’s jump­ing into the fray. Yep, those were the good old news days.

What is good about the news scene to­day is the amount of lo­cal (make that area) cov­er­age pro­vided by area sta­tions. Do you re­mem­ber when the only sta­tion you could pick up on an an­tenna was KOAM in Pitts­burg, Kansas? It pro­vided pretty good cov­er­age for iso­lated north­west Arkansas since, well, there was a void of TV in these hills. That sta­tion and, later, Jo­plin sta­tions pro­vided weather in­for­ma­tion for Ea­gle Ob­server coun­try. Re­mem­ber weath­er­man Earl Lud­lum with his pointer stick? The oval TV screen wasn’t half-cov­ered with a radar pro­mo­tion strip across the top of the screen and the sin­gle sta­tion­ary map stayed in place. Now the screen is cov­ered with broad ar­eas that flip so fast they are some­times un­in­tel­li­gi­ble.

Talk about stray­ing from the sub­ject, “Can you be ex­posed to too much news?” The an­swer is “Yes” and “No.” How about “maybe”? News is im­por­tant. Be­ing able to sift through the good stuff and that some of which could be called “rub­bish” is the chal­lenge. I guess it’s about time to turn on the boob tube and flip be­tween at least two of those 24/7 news gi­ants. I’ll prob­a­bly be­come an­noyed, es­pe­cially if a robo call in­ter­rupts the ses­sion. Hey, leave off the “o” and it could very well be a rob call.

Epi­logue: Hon­estly what brought this up was a re­cent “Hi and Lois” car­toon in my fa­vorite daily paper (I’d be lost with­out that morn­ing rit­ual: news, opin­ions, car­toons, sports and even the le­gal no­tices). That car­toon strip pic­tured Lois lis­ten­ing to a friend who said, “Lately I’ve been try­ing to im­prove my over­all state of mind.” Lois asked, “Are you see­ing a ther­a­pist?” to which her friend replied, “No, but I’ve stopped watch­ing the news.”

Thank good­ness, in our great free United States, that is still an op­tion.

Dodie Evans is the for­mer owner and long-time ed­i­tor of the Gravette News Her­ald. Opin­ions ex­pressed are those of the au­thor.

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