My lawyer father advised me to believe nothing I hear and only half of what I see. That advice serves me well while viewing nationally televised newscasts. What a load of baloney! Even worse, those shoveling the baloney claim to be giving viewers what we want to see and hear. Say what?
When it comes to today's news, no news is good news. If the news is good, it's not considered news and isn't aired. If the news is sensationally bad, it rates 24-hour coverage. While I think all current newscasts are dreadful - who knew we'd be longing for Brinkley and Cronkite? - 24-hour cable channels like CNN and Fox are clearly the worst because of the opinions voiced by their talking heads (almost all of whom claim to be lawyers, prosecutors or judges).
During occasional bouts of insomnia, I sometimes turn on TV. Even with 244 channels, there's not a lot worth watching in the wee hours of the morning. I don't give a flip about Howard K. Stern, Anna Nicole Smith's companion and lawyer, but if he isn't guilty of the acts that late-night TV lawyers insinuated he committed (e.g., double murder), I hope he sues the pants off them. Most lawyers are cautious about what they say publicly, but not these TV legal eagles. Dad's frequent comment that many people's mouths are in motion before their brains are in gear certainly applies to them; if they think it, they say it.
Even the big three networks focus on celebrities at the expense of hard news. With all that's going on in the world today, do you really think a half-hour newscast needs stories about Paris Hilton's jail term or Britney's child custody woes?
Those of you with an Internet connection may want to check out www.jibjab.com. Click on Originals, then click What We Call The News. I promise that, even though What We Call The News isn't exactly "G" rated, it's worth watching and quite thought-provoking.
Consider this line: "We interrupt this story which is coming from Iraq, cuz Rosie's suing Donald, Donald's suing Rosie back." Or this one: "We're cutting from Darfur - we're in Des Moines with urgent news: 'There's a finger in my food!'" The song also refers to "... mindless ballyhoo that's turned our brains to goo!"
Another problem is that television anchors and reporters don't seem real to me. It's a rare TV personality who has a bald head or crooked teeth or an out-of-shape body. (I miss you, Charles Kuralt!)
But while all TV personalities look fantastic, not all of them are the brightest bulbs in the pack. Take the pert and pretty young woman on a Kansas City TV station who reported a gruesome murder. She concluded her report by saying about the victim, "Both her legs were decapitated."
I couldn't resist sending the station an e-mail suggesting that management might want to tell their reporter that only heads can be decapitated. The e-mail I received in reply showed management had a sense of humor. "We know. She didn't. We should have caught it. Our bad."
During the height of the Anna Nicole drama playing out 24/7 on television, I asked husband Ray, who sleeps through late-night TV, if he had read about it in the paper. "A little," he said, "not too much."
That's because you're more likely to get hard news in print. Sure, you'll find opinion pieces - clearly marked as the writer's opinion - and comics, cartoons, articles and columns like this one that provide light reading. But the best thing about newspapers is this: If any of the editors and reporters are lawyers, prosecutors or judges, they're keeping it to themselves.