DANNY: On random nights and weekends, I work a part-time job deep in the heart of Franklin. I grew up down there, and the city has a special place in my heart. It has a certain innocenceit hasn’t turned into one big strip mall like other surrounding suburbs. The local paper, The Review Appeal, is usually a good place to catch up on 4-H contest winners and to see who from my high school class is getting married, thereby making me Least Likely to Show Up at Her 10-Year High School Reunion Because She Can’t Find a Damn Date Let Alone a Husband. But I digress.
I work with a great bunch of married/divorced ladies with kidsa far cry from the bitter, sarcastic twentysomething you read here before you. So imagine my surprise when one of them says, ”Did you see the story in The Review Appeal about the dead naked guy wearing women’s underwear?“ And sure ’nuff, there it was: ”Decaying Body Discovered After Odor Alerts Roommates.“ Seems some traveling businessman put on some lacy ladies’ garments, pushed all the furniture to one side of the room he was renting, made some last-minute arts and crafts collage of naked women on his coffee table, tied a plastic bag over his head, and failed really badly at autoerotic asphyxiation.
People die all the time, and a select few tip the scales when walking the fine line between a really good orgasm and the possibility of being discovered dead, bloated, naked, and lying on an empty metal bed frame. That’s the risk you run. But in Franklin? Taking up space in my Review Appeal, where I should be reading a perfectly good story about people who used their Australian shepherds as groomsmen and bridesmaids? Then it occurred to me: I wouldn’t have thought one thing about it if I’d seen this story in The Tennessean or on World News Tonight. It really opened my eyes to how invasive news has become.
I mean, this guy is dead. And somewhere he likely has a mother who’d probably rather not have the dirty details of her son’s demise broadcast on the front page to The Review Appeal’s Williamson County circulation. I could have gone my whole life not knowing and wouldn’t have been any worse offso what’s the harm in letting kinky dead people lie? And yeah, people have the right to know, but do we have the right to know everything? A life has ended, and he could have been a great guy who did great things, or a normal guy who didn’t do anything specialbut all he’s left with is the legacy of performing dirty deeds, dying, and decaying until someone found him.
The national news is even more out of control. There was so much Elian Gonzalez on my TV screen, in my newspaper, and even on the home page of my computer network that I just didn’t care anymore. A woman died, a little boy became an international pawn, and the hype dragged on so long that I couldn’t digest any more of it. Same with Janet March, JonBenet Ramsey, and Robert Glen Coe; after a while, I’d rather watch the Mötley Crüe episode of Behind the Music for the millionth time just to get away from this stuff.
With the relentless coverage of every bit of minutia, it’s like the media are forcing us to care, yanking the tears out of our eyes. The news isn’t making us more informed or aware, or helping us lead better livesit’s making us numb and inundated with too much information. Moreover, it decides what we care about. I might have wanted to know about an apartment fire in South Nashville. But since no one died or made a swan dive from the 11th floor, it wasn’t good enough to report. All in all, just tell me what I absolutely have to know. I can do without the dirty laundry.
BEN: Oh please, isn’t blaming the media the ultimate cop-out? You don’t care because you can’t be bothered. It’s much safer to make fun of Mick Mars’ fu manchu than to consider the many angles of a national news story.
I’m not saying modern-day news coverage isn’t annoying. Believe me, the last couple of weeks there, I was ready to drive to Miami and throw the little brat back in the water myself. But it’s not the media’s fault these extraordinarily selfish people were keeping this kid. And I’m sorry that the state couldn’t snuff Robert Glen Coe any quicker so Danny wouldn’t have to see any more stories about him.
In all of the situations she’s mentioned, the media were just doing their job. Unfortunately for us, that job consists of serving the stories that bring in the most viewers, i.e. ratings. They can’t help it if the stories we turn to first are the silliest, most shallow crap they have to offer. So no, nothing is sacred as long as there are more people looking for cheap thrills instead of substantial news. I also don’t know how much admonishment anyone should take from a woman who refuses to watch five minutes of Headline News because she might miss a M♦A♦S♦H rerun she’s seen umpteen times.
Besides, as long as there are nitwits dressing up in negligees and trying to strangle themselves while they catch a nut, you’ll be reading about it in the paper. If people didn’t do utterly asinine things, then we wouldn’t have to know about it. If the leader of the free world didn’t ask 20-year-old women to consider using cigars in a whole new way, we wouldn’t be oppressed by information about it for an entire year. But as long as we continue to be the same carbon-based life forms we’ve always been, someone will do something utterly bizarre that cannot be ignored.
And while you fret about the well-being of the negligee guy’s mother, consider the necessity of reporting this atrocity to the people. You see, having a good old-fashioned, toe-curling, brain-freezing orgasm is not good enough for some people. No, they’ve decided that there could be an extra kick from seeing the light at the end of the tunnel during takeoff. Then, predictably, some half-wit screws it up, and he ends up dead as a doornail, all because he wanted to get his rocks off as never before. While you could certainly argue there’s a certain Darwinism at play here, I’ll contend that for the good of other idiots, we should let them know what might happen if they try this at home.
The thing is, the media will beat any story into the ground as long as it’s making their parent company money. Therefore, your front-page items may not be the most consequential stories in the world. You don’t have to stop reading at Page 1, though. I’m sure that if you actually flipped the front page, you’d find more relevant, or at least pleasing, stories inside. Sure, there’s too much information in the world, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t process any of it. I’d rather do a little digging for substance than be the only one in the room who doesn’t know what’s going on.
Got a question or comments for Danny and Ben? E-mail them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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