Life in the Pedestrian Lane: No news

I just spent a week in Idaho with family. As always, they introduced me to a couple of habits I don’t indulge in when I am at home. Sometimes it makes me wonder who I’d be if I had stayed in the great Northwest.

This time it was watching morning TV. Here in Kenai, I settle myself with a cup of coffee and the sudoku in the Clarion and listen to Matt and Coach on KSRM first thing in the morning, more out of habit than the need to know what’s going on. Out there, the coffee is still de rigueur but then it’s plop in front of the TV for one of the morning news programs. I don’t even know which one, and maybe it changed day to day, because they are all the same, or so it appears to a novice.

The news stories are always rather frivolous: the next ‘big’ movie, who married or broke up with whom, what color dress Kim was wearing. We seldom heard the words “North Korea,” “Isis,” or even “Trump.” One morning, the story was that a young girls’ soccer team had been disqualified from playing in a tournament because one of the players looked like a boy. These were 8 to 11 year old girls. Which one DOESN’T look like a boy?

Anyway, my first non-politically-correct reaction was “well, that’s easy enough to prove” but then heard that the girl and her parents had offered to ‘prove’ she was a girl and the powers that be refused that easy solution, saying the team could appeal the disqualification. Then my very cynical reaction was “ummm, the disqualified team must be in line to beat the favorite. Let’s get rid of them.”

And of course, I projected to what if they’d said one of the players on a boys’ team “looked like a girl.” Would the reaction have been so mundane? Would anyone even have dared make that remark? Boys and girls at that age have a unisex look, especially now when hair length is where ever the child is comfortable and clothing is pretty universal in style. And let’s face it, girls are as good as if not better than the boys at that age in most sports if they choose to participate. The little girl got lots of support from team members and their parents, and from the Women’s Olympic soccer players but it still must have caused her some trauma to have disqualified the entire team because someone thought she looked like a boy.

So, my curiosity kicked in, and I “googled” it (What did we ever do without Google? Did anyone know anything?) and found a slightly different story, or rather more of a “he said, she said” controversy. The officials say the team had some “rule infractions” and a “typo” on the team roster that listed one of the players as “male.” The team says “Not so fast. The infractions weren’t ever considered infractions until the tournament, and we tried to correct the ‘typo’ and no one would do it.” Unfortuntely, too many so-called journalists take to heart the opinion attributed to Kathryn Graham: “The power is to set the agenda. What we print and what we don’t print matters a lot.”

These days, of course, that also applies to TV. Too much commentary and not enough straightforward reporting.

Was it Lyndon Johnson who commented that if he walked on water across the Potomoc, the headline next day would read “The president can’t swim”?

I’ve been noticing that a lot lately. The headline shouts one thing, but when you read or listen to the article, way into the piece, after all the “he speculates,” “she suggested,” “they considered” qualifications, you finally come to the “the study proves” statement that shows nothing is as bad (or good) as the headline wants you to think. What has happened to open, unadulterated reporting of what was said, who said it, and what happened as a result? Journalism as an honorable profession has taken a big hit these past few years.

But it brings up another question: did this piece turn from frivolous news to fake news? The way it was presented was obviously not the real story, but the headline certainly grabbed my attention and probably has every feminist in the country frothing at the mouth if they didn’t delve any deeper into it. Few would, I imagine. Why bother? If it’s on the news it must be real! And that begs the question of why was it even in the national news on a popular Morning News program where it would get a lot of play.

David Brinkley said it best: “The one function that TV news performs very well is that when there is no news we give it to you with the same emphasis as if there were.” The morning news programs have that theory down to a “T.” At least Matt and Coach understand that, and do it with humor.

Virginia Walters lives in Kenai. Email her at vewalters@gci.net.

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