News to Me

There are days when I’m truly concerned for the direction of the American heritage. This morning, when I scoped the covers of the morning papers in my local deli, it became clear that this was going to be one of those days.

During an election year where gun control has just resurfaced as an issue with scores of people succumbing to gun violence over the last few weeks — the most notable being a midnight massacre in a movie theater — the biggest story of the day was that Kristen Stewart cheated on her boyfriend.

Hours from now, the world will convene for the Olympic games in London — sans the Greek athlete who was expelled for her racist comments on Twitter (as if Greece didn’t have enough trouble) — but let’s take a moment to ponder on the indiscretion of a wooden actress who rose to fame for playing in a vampire movie.

In the course of a few days, we lost Sylvia Woods, a trailblazing restaurateur who put Harlem on the map for politicians hoping to get a slice of the African-American vote with their serving of soul food, and Sherman Hemsley, an actor who made every black family believe they could make it like scrappy George Jefferson before the Huxtables showed us the beauty of educated affluence.  

While the rest of the country was focused on the psychotic musings of a man who opened fire on innocent people watching the latest Batman installment, very little focus was put on the fact that Christian Bale, the actor who played Batman, visited the victims and the memorial in honor of the dead. Those victims, many of whom are young and uninsured, have just been given a reprieve by having most — and possibly in some cases all — of their medical expenses taken care of.  

Newspaper publishers muse about the decline of their industry and blame the wealth of access to information available through the internet and virtually any smartphone, tablet or other gadget. While it’s certainly a factor in a society being weened on instant gratification, those of us who still value the touch of paper and the occasional practice of clipping or highlighting things still like the idea of a newspaper giving us real news.

But it doesn’t just stop with the papers. American media overall chooses more sensational and occasionally mindless things to report as so-called news. Before stories of the “Vamp Tramp” broke (I must admit I love the caption writing sometimes), we could not escape the “news” of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes divorcing. It would seem that the only way of getting real news is to tune into a cable channel like CNN (or even The Daily Show), wait for a designated hard news program, or go online.

Meanwhile our counterparts in the rest of the world have BBC, Al Jazeera, et al informing them of international news stories that prepare them for interaction with the global population and markets on a continual basis. They are more versed on the ongoing events that have changed the commercial and financial climate of each nation, and are adapting accordingly.

Perhaps we’ve become so closed off in our own beliefs and subscribers to the “too big to fail” hubris that we find it acceptable to push frivolous pop culture and reality television into the forefront of conversations. That our schools are underperforming, our workforce is shrinking and our GDP is teetering on nonexistent doesn’t concern us as much as whether Kanye and Kim will really get married and who the next American Idol judge will be.

But please, let’s not concern ourselves with the 17-year-old boy who gunned down a 4-year-old because he was retaliating gunfire… let’s pontificate on the future of whether the actors who played Edward and Bella will survive her dalliance with a married father of two.

Yeah, that’s a real news story… no one’s ever heard that one before.

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