Playing Doctor

Initial Visit?

Wednesday, August 10

Uncynical Wednesdays:

So the reporter is telling me about how people react when they recognize him.

‘At the gym,’ he says, ‘no one talks to one another and I didn’t think anyone recognized me. But when I was in the shower, this guy says, “aren’t you that guy from tv?” and when I say yeah, three other showering men say that they thought that I looked familiar. Then the first guy says, “You look a lot bigger on television,” and everyone agrees with him. And I’m trying to rinse off and get my naked ass out of there.’

This, to me, is a great story. It’s hard to dislike someone who can tell a story like that.

And I don’t dislike him. He’s personable and nice and everything you want from a performer. As he says, he knows his place. His job is to smile and read and make nicey-nicey with the other people on screen.

I just wish they didn’t call it the News.

Growing up, we used to get both the morning and afternoon papers. When Gannett bought our local newspaper, we supplemented our reading with The Christian Science Monitor. When I moved back to Miami as an adult, I received The Miami Herald on Sundays for local events and arts, and The Wall Street Journal Monday through Friday.

This is to say that television journalism was never that close to my heart to begin with. Sure I watched when Cronkite gave his farewell to America and felt a little choked up. I stayed up watching coverage on election nights and during hurricanes in Miami. But the television news felt like a medium that was in decline before I was born.

So you can see this journalist/reporter/on-air talent has little chance of redeeming local news in my mind, even less so because I have not been forthright about the purpose of my talks with him.

The game I have been playing with him is unfair. He’s on-air because he’s likable and can read. People like likable people. There’s nothing wrong with that.

But for me, journalists are not supposed to be liked. My fight is not with him, but the viewers who watch people like him, who get confused and think that what’s important is what a kidnapper told his victim or what sexual misconduct a four-star general committed.

The news isn’t news because it’s what we want to hear. It’s news because it’s what we need to hear. I’m not against inspirational stories or human interest pieces that help illustrate broader issues. And I used to watch Entertainment Tonight, back when it was demarcated as separate from the news.

To me that separation is important. This is important news and we are going to take it seriously, and here is something entertaining and enjoyable but does not have important consequences.

But maybe I’m just an asshole.

Quite a few years ago, when television news was falling one rung lower on its decent into uselessness, Maria Shriver was given a ‘news-show’ and she interviewed Sandra Bernhard who, characteristically, was giving her a bit of a hard time. Bernhard turned the interview around and asked Shriver if she considered her show news or entertainment.

‘I consider it news,’ Shriver said.

‘Really?’ Bernhard asked, trying to figure out why anyone would be interviewing her on a news program. Then she lit up again and leaned in conspiratorially and said, ‘Nosey news, but news none the less.’


Blogger dan writes:

You could run for any government position on this news-reform platform and I would vote for you. Even after all of your sex scandals were exposed on national TV. ESPECIALLY after all of your sex scandals were exposed on national TV.


Anonymous Anna writes:

Dan's right. I'd keep mum when interviewed about your (our?) exploits.

But I still can't get over this Wall Street Journal thing. So the color on the front page was your tip-off?


Blogger Erik writes:

It’s kind of silly and superficial to cancel over the change in graphics, but for me those black and white line drawings were symbolic of the austerity of their news.

Right now, I’m not making the time to read any newspaper; instead I decided to subscribe to The Economist. The French Girl I’m dating saw it on my nightstand and said: ‘I just finished a novel that had an emotionally frozen character who was always reading The Economist. I didn’t know that it really existed.’

Gee, thanks. Am I supposed to act emotionally vulnerable now?


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