April 10, 1997
According to a latest survey, you, the good people of the great United States of America are seeing your trust in the news media skydive to an all-time low. It appears only one third of you trust the "news." News professionals all over the land are legitimately alarmed. What could be done to restore the good standing of their trade?
First, one needs to separate the important news from the trivial, the inconsequential happenstance. Second, and obviously, one must concentrate the reporting on the meaningful and momentous information as determined in the first step. The criteria for the initial selection is to be chosen by the marketing department with the help of the advertising department and the financial department, itself in collaboration with a few Wall-Streeters.
The MAFD (short for the departments here above) will tell the news people what sells and what does not. Primarily they will focus on what does not sell. Here again, the definition of what does not sell will be arrived at thanks to the enlightened opinions and decisions of the owners of the media conglomerates, with the help of the same few Wall Streeters. We all need a Wall Streeter in our closets. And the results will be acclaimed by you, the consumers.
So, after many high-powered meetings of top management, it will be decided that, above all, the collusion among the news media organizations, big business and Government does not sell. Exception is made, however, in case of scandalous behaviors by politicians. Scandals--in order of importance, sex, adultery, morality (in the religious sense), profiteering (as long as it is not directly related to the businesses which own the news media) and campaign financing--are highly marketable commodities. The ever-increasing gap between the rich and the poor is neither news nor beneficial to the bottom line. The poor are not consumers of news and the rich would rather not see their breakfast and dinner be disturbed by such unpleasant reports. To inform about our societal orgy of consumerism raises a red flag from the friendly Wall Streeters. Can't bite the hand that feeds you, can you? Forget about our rapid move back to 19th century economics. We do not want workers to unionize, do we? Who cares whether 42 million medically-uninsured individuals live in the inner cities of America or in the Appalachians. The fact is they do not live in your nice 1/4 to 1/2 acre of suburban dream land and you are insured anyway; so it does not touch you directly--indirectly is another story, but this would force you to think and God knows you do not want "that" after a long day of work. Fortunately, be happy, MAFD thinks for you and the list of what does not sell has long been drawn for your best comfort.
Now that you are comfortable, everything else is up for grabs. MAFD not only wants you comfortable it wants you entertained. It wants to please you. That too sells. The first thing to have you enjoy your comfort is to make darn sure you are not becoming too complacent, falling into some fairy coziness made in Hollywood. So, crime will be number one on the list of information brought to you freely thanks to Madison Avenue's famous generosity every 8 to 10 minutes. Crime is a priority, must-do reporting, especially when it touches someone else's nice, clean, white, middle-class, middle-aged Baby-Boomer neighborhood. Then, natural disasters come a close second to remind you that if acts of God exist it means that God does exist too, as does Her/His wrath; so, behave! Then, after a couple of commercials about antacids and tooth pastes--with fluoride, please--it's time to make you sweat about all the dangers your children face from the sex (again) offenders out there and the predators roaming the Internet--we need more prisons and more controls for the Net, you'll think, between the Stouffer's ready-made fat-free hamburger and the tarte à la crème. Another series of commercials about Lens-Crafters and the $30/40K car you deserve--haven't you worked hard? Finally, MAFD will authorize the feel-gooders two-minute news to bring you back to your puking comfort; like the generous donation to blah blah blah, or the unfortunate poor soul who had an idea, worked hard and became rich--oops, successful (success and money are synonymous as you well know), or the kid who saved Grandma and her doggy by calling 911.
Another commercial, please.
Then, MAFD having raised enough fear, you can watch your favorite millennium show and sleep comfortably, knowing the media, the alarm system and God will keep you safe and sound. And in the morning you will wake up, at last trusting the news, made of you, by you and for you.
Or you can read Swans!