When I saw this Kunstler quote a couple
of weeks ago, I thought it a bit harsh. Then I picked up my
morning paper -- and, all at once, I got it.
There, in 120-point bold headline type,
above the fold, the lead story of the day, was the "news"
that: In less than 24 hours, singer Taylor Hicks would
battle singer Katharine McPhee for the title of
Ronald McDonalds clown
Clowns. We have indeed become a nation of
frivolous, self-indulgent, overweight, undereducated,
unserious, clowns. When an event of such monumental
unimportance wins precious front-page status, what other
conclusion can be reached?
Art has stopped imitating life and simply
become a substitute for it. I flashed back to the 1967 cult
TV series "The Prisoner," starring Patrick McGoohan -- a
British spy kidnapped and imprisoned on an island with an
Orwellian-like society. Each morning radios, newspapers and
speakers announced it was "another wonderful day on the
island." Every day was another wonderful day. There never
was a bad day -- never mind that everyone on the island was
And so it has come to pass on our island,
where the papers, radios and televisions no longer
differentiate between news and entertainment. Where
"American Idol" finals get page 1 treatment and genocide in
Darfur is pushed deep inside the paper in the shadow of a
1/2-page Best Buy ad trumpeting a sale on iPod accessories.
Oh, lighten up Pizzo! People need
entertainment as much as they need to know about all the bad
news out there.
Yeah, fine. But let's keep the
entertainment news in the entertainment section of the paper
where it belongs. Can we do that? Oh, and keep the sports
news on the sports page as well. The only time I want to see
the name "Barry Bonds," in the news section of the paper is
if major league baseball ever kicks his cheating ass out of
the game. Or if he robs a bank. Or if George Bush appoints
Barry head of the FDA. Otherwise, keep him and all other
baseball-relating "news" where it belongs … in the sports
And, unless the losing singer on
"American Idol" pulls a gun and opens fire after hearing the
verdict, everything else about that show belongs in the
entertainment section and NOT on my front page. The same
rules apply to everyone and anyone whose only claim to fame
is that they sing, dance, submerge themselves in a Plexiglas
globe, eat the most hot dogs in the shortest time or own a
cute dog that fetches beer on command.
None of that is news. Not one word,
factoid or photo-op of it is news.
It's not as if there was not real news
the day "American Idol" found its way onto my front page.
During that same news cycle almost anything that happened in
Iraq was more important, as were the doings that day on
Capitol Hill, at the White House, the Pentagon, the State
Department or in Iran. On the day my paper put "American
Idol" above the fold on the front page, the editors could
have thrown a dart at that list of the above newsmakers and
found a story more worthy of the front page.
Who wins or loses on "American Idol" may
send a few thousand teenage girls squealing off in tears,
but that's about the extent of the damage. On the other
hand, we live in extraordinarily dangerous times. A
convergence of economic, geopolitical and environmental
challenges confront the human race … any one of which could
tomorrow trigger a series of events that would turn all our
lives inside out.
So, news editors everywhere, let's get
back to treating the front page as the sacred trust it is