Just when you think you've seen and heard it all...
By Randa Wagner, Editor -
The other morning when I logged onto msnbc.com to check what went on overnight in the world, I was bowled over by a headline and picture that dominated the news site – over and above the REAL news. There before me was what looked like a red, orange and yellow mosaic of George Zimmerman, the man accused of shooting Trayvon Martin, with the headline:
“Artist creates Zimmerman portrait with Skittles”
Say what? THIS is NEWS? What the …?
I thought my jaw was going to hit the floor. I couldn’t believe msnbc would give prime real estate on their site to a story about a man who had nothing better to do with his time than glue Skittles to a piece of plywood and varnish them. The thousands of candies did look just like Mr. Zimmerman, but that’s not the point.
Why would someone even think of doing something so –weird– and then letting the national news know about it?
The Denver ‘artist’ said he made the 3-by-4-foot portrait as ‘a symbol of what happens when you let fear rule your life.’ He used more than 12,000 Skittles — the candy that 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was allegedly carrying when he was shot. The portrait is hanging at RedLine Gallery in Denver.
The media is so out of sync with reality and what’s really important in life, it’s almost embarrassing to work in the field. When I open a news site, I’m not interested in finding out what overly risque outfit Beyonce wore in public, who Kim Karshadian’s boyfriend-of-the-hour is or what the rest of her whacked-out family is doing.
But that’s the garbage that ‘headlines’ right up there alongside war threats, hunger in Somalia and earthquakes. There ought to be three categories on every news site: REAL News, Sports, and TRASH and GOSSIP. That would make it much easier for those who want real information to find what they are looking for.
It will never happen though. Why? Because of human nature and the media’s skill in recognizing it. Every news site wants you to come to their location first and, hopefully, stay there. Their sponsors — the companies that pay the bills by putting their ads on the site — are counting on it. So the news folks have to think of ways to make their site more appealing to draw the viewer there.
Sure bets are any stories or tidbits that smack of sex, disasters, brutal crime and the utterly absurd. For much of the world, that’s what the eye is drawn to first. Our culture has been so permeated with this stuff, it’s very hard not to look. That’s why those idiotic “Obama says Refinance Your Home Now’ ad boxes contain moving clips of things that have NOTHING to do with refinancing your home: dogs riding in open cars, women dancing in an office, a couple smooching in a park, etc. It makes you look — so you just might click on the box hoping to see more of the picture but, alas, it was only a tease to make you look, and now the pop-up box won’t go away.
Reputable sites now allow ads of almost-nude women in provocative poses beckoning the viewer to “date single women in your area NOW” (you can bet the women in your area DON’T look like that, either); ads that are clearly scams (car insurance for $1 a year!); and “You’ve won! You’re our 1,000,000th viewer — this is no joke! Click here.” Go ahead, click there — you’ll never get that pop up box to go away without professional technical help (it contains a virus). Children are using the internet daily now, and see this garbage. They will grow up thinking “A shocking trick gets rid of wrinkles fast” is normal news to guide their lives by.
My point is, the fact that what should be ‘top of the line’ media outfits lower themselves to accept the sleazy stories and ads that belong in the ‘rag’ magazines at the checkout counter. It’s all because of — you guessed it — money. It’s one big circle of revenue, and the reader is part of it.
Years ago a person went to ‘adult’ stores to look at pictures and movies of undressed people doing naughty things. They read the gossip magazines to find out who was sleeping with who this week in Hollywood, if the aliens were invading, or if someone spent six months of their life building a temple out of soda cans. When they wanted news, they read the newspaper or watched the evening news on television. Same with sports. Everything was separated neatly and you didn’t have to waste your time with what you weren’t interested in.
Those simpler times are gone. There’s nowhere to escape the fluff, obscenity and mindless nonsense of today’s media competition to get your attention. They use what sells, and what sells today is a sad testament to the direction the world, in general, has chosen to go.
Think it can’t get worse? Think you’ve seen everything? I remember my parents’ reaction to the Rolling Stones, the Hippies in the 60s, and the threat of the Cold War. The world they knew was fading away and being replaced by this wild, loud society filled with rebelliousness and loose morals. People were losing touch with what really mattered in life and only wanted to be entertained, fed and catered to, no matter the cost.
The folks knew how it would all end up; and here we are. Spending time we’ll never get back gluing candy to plywood, protesting against the government by destroying our own towns, and twittering all day on our I-pods. What a fine bunch we turned out to be.