Front Page

Yeah, I know I’m in the habit of seeing something profound in something mundane, but I really believe that the newspaper today is an eloquent statement on the human condition. And, I’m not saying this because I think the content is particularly inspiring. Rather, I’m saying this because within the first few pages of the paper you can, at a glance, discover just what it is to be a human in the year 2010, and it’s not flattering.

Splashed across the front page of the newspaper today is a picture of Tiger Woods and his now ex-wife Elin Nordegren. Tiger’s divorce was finalized and announced yesterday, ending months of speculation and probably reviving the many jokes at the golfer’s expense, if they had ever waned at all. I’m not saying that this isn’t newsworthy, though the story of the trials and tribulations of Tiger Woods has grown tired and old. But, first page material? Have we grown so superficial and shallow as that?

Apparently, yes.

The first page of the newspaper should signify stories so worthy of news, of such great import to people, that the story should be seen immediately before all others. In movies and television, journalists always talk about making it on “page one” as though it is the holy grail of newsworthiness. The front page is a big deal in movies and fiction, and it should be in real life too.

The press is always trying to combat the imapge that they are only out for the ratings. Serious news sources always try and paint themselves in noble colours, insisting that the “if it bleeds, it leads” stereotype is an unjust character assassination. There is an effort to draw a distinction between the tabloids and trashy gossip rags and serious press, and I can understand why; your credibility as unbiased journalists depends on the belief that you are dispassionately reporting facts that you feel the public should be informed of, facts and information that will have an impact on their lives.

What impact on the daily lives of the average person does Tiger Woods’ divorce have? I know I didn’t feel the firmament of my soul shake with the orbit changing revelation that the adultering golfer and his wife had officially called it quits. Hell, we’ve all seen it coming from far enough off, haven’t we? The only thing that would have maybe made the story interesting is if it was revealed just how rich Elin was going to come out of all this, and even then it’s a sick kind of train-wreck fascination, at that.

A couple pages deeper into the paper is the story of the 33 miners who are trapped 700 metres underground in Chile, several pages in deeper, in fact. There’s a picture of the tired eyes of one of the miners captured in a camera that was lowered into the shaft. The miners are expected to have to find a way to survive underground until closer to Christmas, as the rescue efforts will be time-consuming and dangerous.

So, what’s more newsworthy, I ask? A picture of Woods and Nordegren from happier times, before or during one of Tiger’s many (MANY) shameful trysts? Or, the picture of the resilient miner, not giving up hope when all hope would seem to be lost?

Which story has more value to us as people? The fact that we are dirty, elfish little creatures is not lost on many. Tiger cheated on his wife, a disgusting act repeated by an enormous number of people around the world every day. Hell, adultery is probably a lot more common in 2010 than it was in 1910, but don’t quote me on that. Sexual freedom and a public more in touch with sexual identity now than a hundred years before tends to bolster the poor judgement of people unhappy in their commitments. So, does the fact that a celebrity, a golfer exceptional for his talent, committed an act so completely unexceptional, warrant headlines? Does it tell us anything about ourselves, or contribute anything to our betterment?

I know, that sounds like a big bowlfull of floating idealistic turds, huh?

But, how does a picture of a golfer and the woman he cheated on, variably and repeatedly, rate higher on the scale of importance than the storyof 33 men trapped deep underground, away from their loved ones, possibly for the next 4 months?

This is why I say the newspaper is an eloquent depiction of our state as human beings. We actually find it more important, more compelling, and more attention grabbing to hear about celebrity gossip and other trivial bullshit than we do to hear about an example of raw human drama. It’s not exactly “if it bleeds, it leads,” but it’s close. Sensationalism has replaced our interest in real news. Don Henley sang about how people just want to hear the “dirty laundry,” and it’s true. Don’t ask me how long it’s been that way, but it is.

It’s the same shallowness of interest that has bred and nurtured the immense reality TV industry. We’d rather skim the surface of human drama by watching innane garbage like “Survivor” or any variety of singing and dancing competition than actualy deal with stories, real or fictional, that challenge us on a deeper level. It’s all bright lights and flashy music, kind of the way that it’s all bright colours and happy music for kids, as well. Isn’t it a little telling that the same bright colours and lights and snappy music is used to attract and adult viewership as is used to attract the attention of a 3 year-old?

I’m not even petitioning here that the news should always be heavy, doom and gloom. Actually, the story of the trapped miners is anything but doom and gloom. Against all odds, these 33 men survived a cae in and are finding a way to persevere through adversity, and are determined to find a way of surviving until their rescuers manage to extract them from their tomb. That’s not just drama, but good human drama.

Not taking anything away from the Woods divorce, I would have rather seen the picture of those weary eyes looking into that camera 700 metres below the surface of the earth than Tiger’s eyes looking up, out of frame, while his mind no doubt wandered the slopes and valleys of whichever woman he was cheating on Elin with at the time.

We all know by now what tunnels and caverns Woods has lost himself in, anyways.

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