After raining for what seemed like weeks and having to cover my flowers to protect them from overnight frost, the other day I woke up to beautiful weather.
In fact, by the time I pulled into my driveway after work, it was a stifling 33 degrees. I had just enough time to complain about the heat and humidity when I found myself at a ballfield in Port Hawkesbury after supper, digging in the trunk for sweaters because it was absolutely freezing outside – the temperature had dropped to 14 degrees in just two hours.
And that’s the kind of analogy I think of when I watch the news these days. It’s been a disorienting, frantic, whiplash-inducing, brain-melting roller coaster ride of information that no one can keep up with.
Every day or so (wait, let me correct myself — every hour or so), a breaking news alert pops up on TV, or blares out on the car radio, or splashes onto my computer. It’s as if someone has their finger on a fast-forward button.
The first thing I turn on in the morning is the news, and the content has usually changed from when I was watching before bed. By the time lunch time rolls around, I’m checking it again because it’s sure to have updated, and I’m always eager to rush home and turn on the news to see what I’ve missed. The turnaround is impossibly fast.
Don’t you remember the good ol’ days of news? When news networks would run the same boring story for days on end, quoting the same two people, regurgitating the same facts, using the same sound bites, beating every angle to death until the next minor scandal came along? And when a big story erupted, that was their bread and butter for weeks.
Yes, those were good times. But when all you have to report is a week old story, it doesn’t take long to exhaust the reportable material when you’re running it on a 24-hour, 7-day per week cycle. It’s not the methods that have changed, though, it’s the material.
Sometimes the updates are minor, insignificant even, but somehow news agencies turn them all into five alarm emergencies. More viewers equals more advertising dollars, so mountains are regularly made out of molehills.
Of course there is no need for much exaggeration, these days. The news lately is filled with whoppers that will make you stop in your tracks. And you had better be quick – unless you’re right on top of things, your “did you hear …?” conversation with a friend will be as dated as an eight track tape.
The recent onslaught of news follows another, equally-frustrating pattern: you think you know something one minute, only to see it debunked or denied a few minutes later on TV, and by the time you get clarification it’s already morphed into a completely different set of facts, and you’re not sure which ones, or which sources, to believe. It’s like going from the slow trickle of a bathroom faucet to a blast with a super soaker.
Last week a congressional candidate literally body-slammed a reporter at a campaign BBQ on the day of his election, and then denied it happened, even though the whole thing was recorded. Read that twice, if you have to, because I know it’s hard to believe.
I’m trying to imagine the look on Wolf Blitzer’s face if back a few years ago someone, anyone, of note had assaulted any member of the press. CNN would have broken away from their third story of the day about a country raising its terror level from mild to moderate, to cover the new story in excruciating detail. And that would be for a common assault, a full-on body slam would have left poor Wolf foaming at the mouth with excitement.
Now, it’s not even the top story of the day.
Then there’s the White House, and how in heaven’s name are we to ever keep up with that circus? Russia, FBI, national security, Congressional hearings, damning testimony. Talk of obstruction of justice and impeachment.
It’s everywhere, updated constantly, impossible to tune out. And just when you’ve wrapped your head around the facts, they change. Sometimes they contradict the previous set of facts, sometimes it’s a whole new batch of data.
Just this evening there have been half a dozen new developments on the world stage. The bombshells just keep coming and coming. It’s more than I can absorb and I’m overwhelmed.
I’ve long fancied myself something of a news junkie, but even I’m out of my league. It’s too much.