06 April 2006

Local News Uncovered

I was all fired up to discuss Walter Cronkite, back in the news because of Katie Couric, when I ran across the following comment, written by Gabriel, about My previous post:

"I have to agree that Caribbean Business is a great example of advertorial newspaper and El Nuevo Día is a good tool for comparing prices of air conditioners and things like that (have to make an exception for the always good Mayra Montero Sunday column). Unfortunately, the alternatives, such as they are, are not much better. Trying to pierce our reality from most of our media output is like trying to figure out US's reality by reading only Michael Moore and Ann Coulter.

I get most of my news over the radio. How about you? Any blog/show/magazine worth reading for news?"

My first reaction was to answer in the Comments section, but that was immediately followed by a "Yikes!" For you see, I suddenly realized I couldn't answer the question: How DOES The Jenius get the news?

I'm assuming that Gabriel referred to local news, and that, as the British grumble, is the sticky wicket. Because...I don't really have a local news source.

Critics, take a number.

Let Me dispense with something: As I mentioned in another forum, I wanted to be Walter Cronkite. He was, and still is, the quintessential news anchor. (On The Larry King Show tonight, Larry asked Walter "What makes a great (news) anchor?" and he replied "Me." He was 100% on the mark.) My standard for what news should be--for what journalism should be--is based on Cronkite, Eric Sevareid, John Chancellor, David Brinkley, Sam Donaldson and several others for whom the search for truth was the guiding principle. Not the search for ratings--Truth.

So My utter disappointment at local news sources is easily explained. All of them know what ratings are and how to pursue them, but none of them could identify Truth if it bit them in the ass for an hour. Let me be even more specific:

--Caribbean Business: You got money? You are news, baby! Political bias? As the planet-builders in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy were happy to declaim: We cater to your every whim. We're not proud.

--El Nuevo Dia: Bloated with ads, bloated with ads and let Me add (pun intended), just bloated. The few shining lights (the student section, Mayra Montero, coverage of arts) are almost accidents. Local coverage is gossipy, shallow and indifferent to objectivity. International news stories are treated like kidnap letters: cut some from here, some from there and see what fits.

--The San Juan Star: Proudly proclaims it won a Pultizer Prize...in 1961. Also rejected Hunter S. Thompson for a job at the paper. If it's negative about Puerto Rico, front page news. If it's positive, hey, here's another negative! I'd say they are resting on their laurel, but that weed died back in the 1970s. Can't compete for ads because it's in English and additional versions just watered down an already weak product. Buckled under to government pressure by firing an Editor. No balls then, none now. (And lest ye feminists jump at Me: balls are not a requirement for journalistic success, but integrity definitely is. The San Juan Star lost its integrity and probably--tragically--doesn't even know it.)

--Television news: Reporters squirming to ask breathlessly inane questions while squirming to avoid being labeled as politially partisan. Hey, nitwits: your job doesn't require or reward the suspension of thought and judgement, okay? The bloodier, sadder, more violent or stupid the footage, the better. Sound bites don't even have to make sense, so long as somebody's message gets distorted. Without a teleprompter, 90% of local TV reporters would have no opinion about anything.

--Radio: The cesspool with outcroppings of solid rock. The cesspool is news radio and almost all of talk radio. Let's see how many times we can repeat the same drivel! Let's enrage! Let's befoul! Let's besmirch! Let's use crude language and then vapidly crow that the FCC can kiss my skanky ass! (A local "politologist" with the brain of a syphillitic lizard likes to do that, knowing full well the FCC will not move against any politically-oriented talk show.) What most of talk radio calls analysis is like calling an autopsy surgery: the intent is to kill the topic, not foster its exploration. The few shows that are good--with balanced viewpoints and serious intent--are maybe 2 or 3, but sadly, I don't listen to them.

So where do I get my local news? I seldom read CB, occasionally read END, only read the Comics in TSJS, ignore the other national papers (Primera Hora, aka "END for Even Bigger Dummies" and El Vocero, former blood rag now just a rag), don't watch TV news, don't listen to the radio, don't visit local websites except for The Information Soldier and Portal Al Exito. Yet I am fairly well-informed about local affairs, according to people who solicit My opinion and sit in judgment of it. How do I do it?

Like I said: the people around Me. My family, colleagues, neighbors and friends tell Me what they react to in the news and I pick up on that. I read the front page of every paper almost every day; takes about 30 seconds and I have a feel for what's being highlighted and what's being ignored. (I also save money.) And because My "ignore it" filter is set on "high", anything that jumps above it automatically merits My attention.

Fools fighting in their outhouse, other Fools trying to get into the outhouse, a jellyfish governor suddenly showing a notochord (during his recent budgetary speech), more spectacular failures in education...I pick up on them, but not in the spastic raw-nerved manner of My fellow Puerto Ricans in their junkie-news habit. Most of what goes on would piss Me off hourly. With this method, I simply get pissed off once or twice a week.

And for those of you who notice a parallel between local TV and radio news and U.S.-based media of the same type, kudos for you. I wish I could say "Monkey see, monkey do" without ostracizing monkeys far beyond the bounds of rationality...

The Jenius Has Spoken.


Gabriel said...

Thanks! Its as I suspected. One doesn't need a lot of data to be informed about our situation. Its all repetitive. I do almost the same. I try to listen to some radio, either for news or if I need a laugh, I tune WAPA Radio for a few seconds (can't stomach it too long).
What about the other readers? Any other blogs worth checking?
As for news from the rest ( real?) world, I visit mostly motherjones.com, news.google.com and a few other sites.I waste to much time on those sites and am trying to just check them once a day.

Aníbal said...

My most visited news site is Slashdot it provides "news for nerds, stuff that matters". For local news I listen almost exclusively to Radio Isla, specially Fuego Cruzado (if I manage to leave work before 7:00pm, which isn't often). The default home page on all my browsers is my own Google Personalized Home Page which I can customize with news sources as well as blogs.

Most days one or two subjects will come up and I will try to "go deep" on them... Going deep means doing three things checking the subject on Wikipedia, scanning the first few result pages for that subject search on Google, actually visiting two or three of the google's results and reading as much as possible. Although it isn't a perfect method (not every subject is on the net, I don't spend more than 20 minutes on each subject) I find it gives me a good "feeling" on the subject.