Op/Ed

Ways of Seeing: Just give the facts, boring and dry

I like to be informed about what is happening, both locally and around the world, but I’ve been finding it harder and harder to watch the news over the last few years — perhaps even decades. I feel the news has strayed from its original intent, which was to broadcast or report new or noteworthy information, especially about recent or important events (I looked up the dictionary definition). 
News in its current form has become entertainment. It’s now required to have cliffhangers: “Find out what common household item in your house could be poisoning you … after the break!” You can now watch news all day and hear pundits speculate about what might happen from every possible angle until finally, they are able to report what actually happened. 
Your news now comes in different flavors. There is liberal and conservative news and everything in between. Somehow these differing news programs all take the same facts but end up with different stories. Facts should be just that, facts. I don’t want to have to watch news reports from every political angle to try to piece together what the truth is. 
One of my new grievances with the news is that it sensationalizes everything. Take for example the weather. When I was younger, there were very few severe weather alerts. Now it seems every time more than an inch of precipitation falls from the sky it is a “severe winter storm!” and people have to be reminded that road conditions will be terrible. People run out to stockpile pantry items and batteries only to find a few inches of snow the next morning. Perhaps reporting the weather is not the most glamorous, but I don’t need meteorologists trying to create drama. 
The coronavirus is the current story that has grabbed everyone’s attention. People seem to have divided into two camps, those who are taking it very seriously and self-isolating and sanitizing everything, and those like the spring-breakers who were reported to be partying on the beach unwilling to change their plans. I wonder if our extreme style of reporting used for every story in the news has desensitized us so we are no longer able to tell what is a real emergency. 
This sensationalization of every new story also means that stories we once felt so strongly about wither and disappear. What happened to those groups of migrants that were stuck at the Mexico-U.S. border? How is the war in Syria going? What about the 18,000 people who have died from the flu this year in the U.S.? These are just “old news,” tossed aside for a newer fresher story. 
It reminds me of my thoughts on activities for children when they are young. Many people believe they need to constantly change activities to always keep things new and exciting so children never get bored. I believe it is essential for children to get bored to spark creativity, but that’s a story for another day. Have we as adults followed this model? Do we feel the need to be constantly entertained by new and different stories?
I’m not old enough to have experienced broadcasts from those such as Walter Cronkite, but even so I miss them. I long for the news to be delivered in a straightforward manner; just the facts, no gimmicks, no debates, no suspense. I do not watch the news to be entertained. We have an overabundance of other entertainment options — TV shows, movies, books, all available any time on any device. I do not need 24-hour news coverage where they must fill all those hours so every situation is dire, all weather is severe, and every disaster is imminent. 
Me, I want my news boring and dry. Just the facts, please. 
Claire Corkins grew up and lives in Bristol, Vermont. She studied Human Ecology at College of the Atlantic in Maine. After college she worked abroad teaching English as a second language. She currently works with her father in such various endeavors as painting houses, tiling bathrooms, building porches, and fixing old windows. She hikes, reads, plays ice hockey, travels, and wishes she could wear flip flops all year round.

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