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TV news provides evidence of my aging

When I was a kid, I never understood how anyone could sit down and watch the news on TV. It was so boring and dull; why would anyone volunteer to suffer though it? The only explanation I could think of for this behavior was that people who watch the news must be grown-ups who are already boring, so the boring news doesn’t bother them. Then, a few years ago, I was flipping through the channels and was actually interested by one of the news stations. From then on, I was hooked. I began to watch the news all the time, resigned to the fact that I was now a little bit closer to being a boring grown-up myself.

For the last several weeks, three stories have all but dominated the news cycle: The presidential election, the General Petraeus “scandal,” and Hurricane Sandy. Thankfully, the election is now over, and the personal lives of military officials do not interest me. However, I do have a particular problem with the way Hurricane Sandy has been covered by TV news.

In the days after the disaster the news coverage was overwhelmingly positive. Despite the terrible effects of the storm, journalists were able to report how people from the federal level down to local neighborhoods were able to band together to endure and make the best of the situation. There didn’t seem to be enough time in the day to broadcast all the inspiring stories. From the life-saving heroism of first responders, to generous acts of charity, to public officials actually doing their jobs and responding to the disaster in what seemed to be an effective manner.

The coverage of Hurricane Sandy was all about hope and endurance at first. Then a couple of weeks went by and I began to notice a different kind of conversation in the news about Hurricane Sandy. Instead of stories of camaraderie and common good, several journalists and contributors have shifted to a tone of judgment and finger pointing.

During their news segments, these people have spoken of grave mishandlings of the unforeseen situation that certain powerful people have to be “held accountable for.” Then, they assure us everything would have been so much better had we followed the inspired plan they thought of a week after the disaster using the data and observations from the storm. These talking heads are so unbelievably wise they could probably provide solutions to any problem, as long as it is a problem that has already happened.

But maybe my expectations are too high. You don’t have to be wise to know that much of TV news is not about presenting an objective viewpoint. It seems that for the news media, bad news is good news. It is more about vindication than veritability. What a sad state we live in, when no one can agree that certain events, like natural disasters, are nobody’s fault.

A few years ago my budding interest in the news was a sign to me that I was getting older. Now I have even more proof of my aging. The first step towards getting old is simply watching the news. The next step is complaining about it.

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