A few years ago, in a day when the Discovery Channel meant more than "discover how custom bikes are made" and the Learning part of the Learning Channel included more than wedding cake and window treatments, one of them ran an interesting hour on the making of a local news team. The station was just getting into the local news game, and they were going through a week's worth of live rehearsals. The show has stuck in my mind for two reasons. First, there was actual "breaking news" which occurred right before one of the practice newscasts, and the female anchor who the documentary crew was particularly following told them later that this would be news of interest to the local audience because the crash "happened just two markets over." That the concept of "market" would serve a newshairdo the same way "parsec" serves astronomers was a cosmic revelation to me.
The other was Walter Cronkite. Uncle Walter was interviewed for the exercise, and he said something to the effect that when he started out journalists were paid what beat cops and schoolteachers and butchers made. They understood the concerns of the common man because they were common men.
And they were reporters, too, one might add.
How did we get from there to an era where local teleprompter readers make six-figure salaries, live in exclusive neighborhoods, and send their children to private schools? Look, I'm no communist (okay, not anymore); I've got no problem with people making as much as they can, whether because they're on the idiot box or they've got a great court sense or singing voice or a nice set of tits. It's the concomitant commodification of the news itself that is troubling. We've gone from hiring people who read the stuff based on their "likeability" to actually reporting the news that way.
What my wife's class wanted to talk about this morning first period was Red Lake. How come Columbine was all over the news for weeks, but this gets the short shrift? Because it doesn't involve white people? Because the body count barely made double digits? Why are Terri Schiavo and Michael Jackson more important than schools?
It's a fair cop. And I can only add, "why are teenagers more aware of what our priorities should be than the people who bring us the news?"