I’ve been spending this week taking care of my sickly mom and her sister who underwent surgery at the beginning of the week. Generally it’s a low demand task – getting a few meals together, making sure that they get their meds on time, and keeping the dishes washed. However, what it does open my eyes to is the 24 hour news cycle, something that I know of but rarely personally experience in the busyness of my normal work day, for the television is never off at their house and seems to stay tuned to the Today Show and CNN. As I sit in the dining room, trying to keep up with church and community work from afar, I have a clear view of the TV and it seems like every 2 minutes there is another report on the most pressing news of the day: Beyonce’s lip synching of the National Anthem at the inauguration, and Manta Te’o’s fake girlfriend. As we sit here and watch again and again and again the breathless attempts to transform these minor events into a major scandal, we all find ourselves looking at the screen and saying, “Shut up, already! Leave those poor folks alone! We just don’t care.”
Make no mistake, these really aren’t big deals worthy of hours of attention. It should be of no surprise to anyone these days that musicians often lip synch their live performances rather than take the risk of a major flub before millions (if not billions) of people. The demands of live events and television make live performance difficult if not impossible in many cases. The demands of staging, which puts the instrumentalists too far removed from the singers, often requires compromises. No one is debating whether it was Beyonce’s voice at the inauguration, but it looks like she and the powers that be decided that trying to pull this off live wasn’t worth the risk . . . a decision that is made daily by performers. So she lip synced . . . big deal! Isn’t the results of the Israeli election much more significant to the future of our lives and worthy of attention on the screens of our households?
The Manta Te’o situation is even more bewildering to me. This is a 21 year old kid who has gotten caught up in a hoax and apparently made a couple of mistakes in how he handled it. I’ve about decided that anyone’s record of stupid beliefs and behaviors before they are 25 years of age should be off limits to the press for it is the rare individual that fails to make some bad decisions during the transition from being a teen to being and adult. Yes, he may have lied to the press in a short stand-up interview, but there is no indication of a life characterized by deception, and from the cheap seats it simply looks like he made a mistake – something we all do and should be forgiven of. The story here is that there really is no story but the media continues to beat this horse until all of us want to scream.
It’s often suggested that the media only airs what the people want to see. In fact, more often than not, the 24 hour news monster encourages the media (regardless of political bias) to over report and over cover, feeding on one another’s reports as a means of filling the beast. I once worked for a religious education channel that aired 12 hours a day and I can say first hand that the pressures of filling the time meant that we sometimes put stuff on the air that was less than stellar. The clock never stops and the tyranny of time that faces most producers leads them to be on the look out for something to fill it . . . and flogging a potential scandal until it screams (whether it is really a scandal or not) is a sure fire time filler. It’s also easy and cheap to cover – something that quality coverage of substantive news items rarely is. Thus, economics and time become the drivers of these things more than the will of the masses.
Yes, I suppose that the folks who leave their TV’s on 24/7 have a short attention span and may not have the patience for longer quality coverage on difficult issues . . . but I think that is more of an assumption than a reality. I remember being told in seminary that most church members wouldn’t have the time patience or tolerance for deep and difficult bible study. However, when I got into the local church and started pulling out the harder stuff I discovered a whole pool of folks who were longing for something deeper and more substantive. I wonder if that may not be the case in regards to TV news today?
So media producers, we’ve heard enough. The Beyonce and Manta Te’o stories just don’t matter. Frankly my dears, we don’t give a damn.
4 thoughts on “A Word to the Media: We Just Don’t Care!”
I just commented to my wife last night that all must be well with the world if the most important news event is the Beyonce lip sync.
Can’t watch reality tv. Basic news cast, then all play – I get enough ‘real’ reality everyday. Found the same thing with most talk radio, it’s just depressing.
I could weep over the statement in seminary (of all places!) that most church members wouldn’t have the time patience or tolerance for deep and difficult bible study. A long stay in purgatory for them! I suspect the same advice went for sermons. That is why church is such an excellent place to work on your “must do” list. Nothing there to distract you.
“I remember being told in seminary that most church members wouldn’t have the time patience or tolerance for deep and difficult bible study. However, when I got into the local church and started pulling out the harder stuff I discovered a whole pool of folks who were longing for something deeper and more substantive.”
I agree with the overall tone of your post, and appreciate it; but the above comment caught my attention. I recently shared wtih a DS friend of mine that he might be surprised at the number of people who might be interested in learning who God is–a triune God of holy love who is a verb–and who we are–fallen, in need of salvation–and the impact God can have on our lives. I know I have spent years wandering around the church “in a fog” wondering what Chrisitianity was all about. I’ve ended up “doing it on my own” by delving into John Wesley and what true methodism is about: the salvation of the person in the pew–something The UMC lost a long time ago. If you were told that in seminary, no wonder we never get past the rock bottom basics and get to the point of living a life centered in God as seen in Christ Jesus. After much reading and monitoring the state of the UMC, and my own experience, I can absolutely say that the gospel and its impact on a persln’s life is the best kept secret. I can easily name three people in the church who would like to “go deeper”–and I have a sneaking supicion there are many, many more.
A quote from Kenneth Collins about John Wesely:
“”‘The soul and the body make a man’…the spirit and discipline make a Christian”. In fact, Wesley attributed some of the decline of 18th century Anglicanism precisely to it lack of proper pastoral care and oversight:…”now in whatever doctrine is preached where there is not discipline, it cannot have its full effect upon the hearers.” Even more pointedly, Wesley added: “preaching like an apostle, without joining together those that are awakened and training them up in the ways of God is only the begetting children for the murderer.”
In his book, “Vital Signs”, Dan Dick reported that the lay leadership of truly vital churches were studying seminary level material.
I would love to become “conversant, confident and comfortable” in my faith so that I could talk about it with others–but I get the feeling I would have to go to seminary, since I am having troubel finding a truly vital chruch in my area. No wonder James Emery White can charcterize the post-Christian era as “the memory of the gospel is fading”: the “people who are “out there” are never equipped.