News watching • 11 September 2007 • The SnowBlog

News watching

I've got a couple of weird rules for watching the news. I suppose having any rules at all for watching the news is a bit weird. Or maybe very weird? But the thing is, you need them. Otherwise you're not really taking it in; you're watching cartoons. Or so it seems to me. My first rule is to avoid human interest stories. I'd call a human interest story anything where the same kind of thing happens over and over and doesn't change anything (except for the few people involved). A murder, a kidnapping, a celebrity who's... well, a celebrity who's done almost anything actually. With those stories once you've finished learning all about them you're still no better informed. They fade away and another one happens and you still don't understand the world any better. You just end up with the vague sense that the world is filling up with crime and bad luck (when it's really just filling up with stories about them). That's my view anyway. And they also seem so arbitrary. Like the rule that missing children of ordinary parents only make the news if they're white-skinned and blonde and pretty. That's a horrible rule, but to the best of my knowledge it's a law of Western journalism. The second rule is to use the news to test theories as much as you can. The kinds of theories I'm talking about go after important parts of the story that aren't being mentioned, like: what are the agendas of those involved? what's behind the timing of it? and why is this even in the papers? Taken to extremes, those questions can turn you into a paranoid conspiracy freak. But if you don't ask them enough, you end up just being spoon fed. You become the sort of citizen that wicked politicians rub their hands over. The other reason this rule is important is that it makes reading news interesting. If there's no sense of putting the pieces together, then what's news for? It's just time that could be spent watching celebrities. Which brings me to today's news. I saw a Google News webpage that suggested there were over a thousand newspaper stories worldwide criticising Britney's performance at the MTV VMAs. But could it really have been as bad as they say? Are they just being mean? Are they just trying to keep an audience happy who (to use a phrase from a William Gibson novel) 'crave the warm god-flesh of the anointed' from time to time? Whatever, I'm tempted to watch the performance on YewChoob and see for myself.

(Apologies to anyone who clicked on the picture above hoping to read more slebgossip. You won't find any there. Just proper news and the occasional bit of background context.)


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