Just the Facts Ma’am

just the facts

What a difference it would make if the news only reported the “facts.”

The tail end of Hurricane Ida is passed through my neck of the woods overnight and continued throughout the day. Of course, the news has interrupted scheduled programming to track the storm, which generally is a helpful idea.

However, they have continued to sensationalize every detail along the way.

There was a report that a school bus full of children was trapped by rising flood waters. Scary, right? The news personality was practically salivating at the notion that she got to be the one to report the tragedy. However, when she cut to the newsperson on the scene, the bus had merely gotten stuck in the high water. They failed to follow “turn around, don’t drown.” All ten children on the bus, including the driver, were safe and had been picked up by their parents. You could almost see the disappointment on the news personalities face that she didn’t get to add this tragedy to her professional resume.

Don’t misunderstand, fast moving water is nothing to take lightly, and I’m glad the children made their way to safety. That isn’t my point. My point is the overzealousness with which our news personalities report things. It’s like they are “auditioning” for TMZ or working on their “highlight reel” with every juicy morsel they give. Walter Cronkite would be rolling over in his grave.

Another reporter on the same network started her broadcast of an apartment building that had flooded overnight with, “It’s been a very traumatic, scary day here…” Gee, you think? Please just report the facts. Don’t over-report, don’t add your conjecture, and don’t add hype. You aren’t writing a persuasive essay, you’re reporting the news.

I’m old enough to remember when newsmen and women reported the facts. They were dry. The news was, for the most part, boring, and they still fact-checkered before they released a story.

Those days are long gone.

Journalism is dead. In my 1982 version of The American Heritage Dictionary (sometimes it’s good to keep old things), journalism is defined as: 1. the collecting, writing, editing and publishing of news or news articles through newspapers or magazines: 2. The style of writing characteristic of material in newspapers and magazine, consisting of the facts of occurrences with little attempt at analysis or interpretation. Merriam-Webster’ online dictionary defines “journalism” as: 1. the collection and editing of news for presentation through the media; 2. writing characterized by a direct presentation of facts or description of events without an attempt at interpretation, but then adds 3. writing designed to appeal to current popular taste or public interest. NOOOO! That last definition is NOT journalism.

My college journalism instructor was very specific if you turned in an article that contained conjecture. You’d get it returned with big red marks. Adding conjecture made it an “editorial” article, NOT a “news” article.

I’ll leave you with this. I think Don Henley sang it best in “Dirty Laundry: “I coulda been an actor, but I wound up here, I just have to look good, I don’t have to be clear, come and whisper in my ear, give us dirty laundry…We got the bubble-headed bleached-blonde, comes on at five, She can tell you about the plane crash with a gleam in her eye, Interesting when people die, give us dirty laundry.”

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