THOUGHTS ON NEWSPAPERS, TABLOIDS AND NEWS BROADCASTS
The following are some thoughts I have had about newspapers and news broadcasts. They date from several years ago.
On newspapers and newscasts:
One of the reasons why the news on T.V. is so boring is that no matter who is reading the news, the rhythm of news reports always follows the same pattern: the same rise and fall of each sentence, the same singsong tone when they sign off—“Joe Blow, CBC news, Ottawa.” The content too is almost predictable. One looks in vain for imaginative, interesting images; irony; wit or good historical analogies. (For years now most schools of journalism have preached to their students that they shouldn’t make any value judgments in their writing. This is akin to law school professors teaching their students not to make moral judgments. Do whatever it takes to win your case!) For anyone who values spontaneity or originality the newscasts referred to above are boring in the extreme. They are the verbal equivalent of the paint by numbers kits that you can find at Woolworths.
Tabloids exaggerate almost everything, including the reactions of people they are writing for. It is typical to read that So-and-so was “furious” (whereas in reality he was just a little ticked off) or to read that such and such a government minister “bashed” teachers when in fact he was only annoyed at a few of the points they made.
This deliberate distortion of language has an unfortunate influence on readers who tend to think (maybe only subconsciously) that it is “right” or “normal” to react violently. Thus is society churned; thus do bad feelings spread. (I would guess that the events of January 6th could be partly explained by the kind of media the Capitol-stormers had been subjected to.)
On the other hand, I confess to grabbing a free read of “The National Enquirer” when I am waiting in line pay for my groceries. I have read lots of good reporting in it (and it is reporting that I don’t find in the larger, more conservative newspapers.) I discovered that Queen Elizabeth had contracted Covid-19; that R. Wagner really did murder Natalie Wood This is something that Italian newspapers have always contended); that Prince Harry’s father was not Prince Philip but some champion Polo player that Princess Diana had an affair with. (Do some googling and see if you can find pictures of this guy. What would you google? I don’t know: maybe “Diana, Harry and the polo player.”)
Some people say that a newspaper moulds itself on the pattern of what it perceives its reader to be. In the case of “The Vancouver Province” this prototypal reader is badly educated, malcontent, pleasure-seeking (yet basically puritanical), a chronic complainer, a government basher, etc. Seeing its reader in this light, the newspaper proceeds to print the kind of ‘news’ that it thinks will please its readership. The paper will consistently cook up a news recipe of sorts that will contain lots of violence, lots of complaining (e.g. in the letters to the editor section) and, of course, an incredible number of ads (mostly irritating).
Many people will buy the paper, not because it contains excellent reporting and analysis or because they love it, but because it is the only newspaper in town. By reading this newspaper over the days, weeks, month and years they gradually take on the attitudes of the prototypical reader that the reader geared itself to in the first place. The paper has created a monster. The whole process is doubly insidious because once this collective monster has been created the paper has a good excuse for printing the kind of misleading trash (e.g. “alternative facts”) that it prints. Donald Trump has shown that he can supply them with an endless number of falsehoods and distortions.
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PERSIAN CATS AND SOME WOMEN
Some women remind me of a Persian cat I once observed. This cat took a great deal of pleasure parading and preening around a friend’s living room. On one occasion it went outside and got caught in a downpour. It slinked back into the room, trying desperately to go unnoticed. This cat is not so different from women I have observed. They look great in high heels, a bouffant hair style, lipstick, eyeshadow, etc. but when they don’t use any of the above-mentioned prompts they are much like that Persian cat.