Monday, January 07, 2013

Hard News into TV Entertainment: I'm Breaking the Habit

A quiet concise voice for reason amidst the cable news wars: Scott Pelley

In the last week, two things happened in my life, intersecting in a way that left me with a resolve to cut my cable service way back, leaving me without CNN and FOX, for starters.  When I dropped TCM a couple of years ago for another package that includes TV Land (just so I could see Betty White in "Hot in Cleveland"), with it came, to my surprise, CNN and Fox. Gradually, they turned me into a news junkie.  Only last week, when I kept losing the Comcast signal and felt degrees of withdrawal, did I come to terms with a  wasteful habit. No more!

The other thing was far more sobering, but it relates:   

When I went to school many years ago, under our desks we would "duck and cover," practicing what to do in case Russian bombs dropped over our small little town of Santa Rosa.

Today, kids still sometimes duck and cover. They also practice lock down, just in case one of their own breaks through in a rage, armed with enough "rounds" to take out a small country.

The enemy now is not them. The enemy now is us.

In China a few days ago, a man with knife entered a classroom and slashed away  through and over 20 helpless students.    Two were seriously injured, all survived.  Said to be "mentally deranged," in Connecticut, with far more than a knife, he may have killed dozens or more.

Here in the U.S., we haul out the usual experts-- by the hours around the clock on cable news outlets -- to explain away the mayhem  on  mental lunacy and every other reason except the vulgar and violent cultural currents of this country's history.  The experts and their enablers in effect  white wash a reality far more grim and real and enduring -- the obscene proliferation of guns in this country.  I could say a lot, but let me quote from Sunday's  New York Times, wherein Nicholas D. Kristof puts this latest "harrowing" episode in stark context:

"The tragedy isn't one school shooting, it's the unceasing toll across the country.  More Americans die in gun homicides and suicides in six months than have died in the last 25 years in every terrorist attack and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq combined."

In a tragically perverse way, yes, America, you are quite "exceptional."

Back when we ducked and covered, the evening news lasted 15 minutes until it was expanded to a half hour.  Fine. So, I had to ask myself, why on some days do I allow the cables a few hours of my time rehashing over and over, asking and arguing the same questions over and over, mud slinging back and forth, about the current crisis or schoolyard shooting at hand?  Why?   The repetition alone, come to think of it, might be harmful to my mental health.

On CBS, I have come to respect and appreciate news anchorman Scott Pelley.  He brings a  wonderful and very professional quiet dignity to the desk, and this, I find refreshing.  His colleagues do good investigative reporting.  He gives me the news in thirty minutes.  That is sufficient, just as it was back in the days when I ducked and covered, fearing an unknown enemy from another country -- but never from my own.

I'm looking forward to defaulting back to the "limited basic" channels.  Less is far better.   I can still see Huell Howser's richly informative California Gold.  Still watch Bill Moyer's Journal, and Scott Pelley host the CBS evening news.  Sure, I will miss History (their recent programs on U.S. business giants and the history of life on earth have been marvelous), and I may have to watch Betty White on my PC, a bummer.  Maybe, if I play hard, I can get History and TV Land from Comcast or AT&T -- without all the dozens of other channels they try to shove down our throats.  This time, on my terms or no terms. 

But I've had it with American TV culture.  I'm saying  No. No. No.  I refuse to participate in the commercial exploitation of American violence and vulgarity.

Thank you, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, for your guts.  Please run for President of the United States.  You might be our only hope.



Harry Kingston said...

Hi Dave,
First, hope you have a great Holiday season in sunny California.
I remember watching the 15 minute CBS news with Douglas Edwards.
Then the 30 minute version with Walter Cronkite and now Scott Pelley.
CBS news has a way that to me they are on top of every top news events and presents it like none other.
Real class when it comes down to it.
They have Bob Schieffer and has been there for years and knows all the imporatant folks and just like the election they told us hours ahead of the rest who was going to win and they did and what states would do it.
I would not miss an evening with CBS news and there special news coverage as well.
The gold standard for news.
Harry in Texas

Dick Dykes said...

Greetings from the East! And a Happy New Year David.
When is our country going to wake up? With to the scurge of Violent Video Games, MTV, and the general decay of morals going on in our country. No one is willing or has the guts among our "leaders" to tell it like it is. And it'd no wonder because then they ar labeled eccentric or looney tunes!
Just had to say that because I too am sick and tired of so much self-bashing of our country by folks that have lived here all their lives. Well I'm gonna shut-up now that's off my chest. Hope you have a prosperous and healthy new year! Dick Dykes