Watching the nightly news on television has become like a bad habit, even an addiction that’s hard to break. I don’t particularly enjoy it; I end up feeling worse afterward, and there seems to be no distinguishable benefit derived from the entire effort. It’s difficult to describe exactly what I do expect but I know instinctively it’s not what we’re currently getting.
Every night the news opens with the latest on-the-spot police action; someone’s robbed a store using a gun; there was an accident on the highway and traffic is stopped in both directions; or an arrest has been made in last week’s robbery of a convenience store. This is followed by another on-the-spot report from City Hall, Queen’s Park or Ottawa about the latest government screwup or waste of taxpayers’ hard-earned dollars. After that bit of sunshine, we segway into a story about the newest local business fraud or corporate rip-offs we should know about, often with live video of a naïve senior citizen who was scammed.
The news is interrupted every two minutes to bring us up to date on the latest weather because in case we haven’t looked out the window in the last ten minutes, we need to know what’s probably not going to happen tomorrow. Despite zillions of dollars invested in meteorological technology they are wrong a shocking amount of the time. Remember the major false alarm about the snow storm of the century that recently closed down New York for a couple of days? I think Canadians’ obsession with weather began with our agricultural ancestors who needed to know whether frost was going to decimate the crops or whether it’s going to okay to hang the washing outside in the morning. That zeal for a steady supply of weather intelligence is now fueled by nervous commuters who need to know what they might not be able to see through their livingroom windows or the windshields of their SUVs.
Following alternating bits on weather and crime we are fed the latest information about international terrorism designed by keep us on the edge of our seats and swearing to never travel again. After that, the health news brings us up to date on the latest research on genetically modified foods and the dangers of pesticides or the medications we’re taking. And in case we happen to be one of the ones who are genuinely trying to eat healthy, any hope we had is dashed when we’re presented with more facts and figures that confirm that everything we eat will cause cancer no matter what we do anyway.
The business report cheers us up by reminding us we’re going broke. The Canadian dollar is in the toilet which is good for exports but bad for the poor folks who save all year to go to Florida to escape our shitty winters (see weather above). The stock market is killing our investments and forget about safe GICs or other investment vehicles; they’re paying 0.5% interest so we don’t have a hope in hell of being able to retire—ever—which is good for mortgage rates but no one can afford the insane house prices. Fortunately the banks are making money but they’re too busy thinking up creative new ways to add punitive service charges for using our money or for mailing seniors a paper copy of their statements.
Then, there’s sports. It’s all about a bunch of overweight millionaires who can barely catch a flyball or interception but think they’re entitled to beat their wives and girlfriends without being penalized or even held accountable. Because they are in the revered realm of professional sports their crimes are minimized or even overlooked. And the reason these same wives and girlfriends stick by their man—they’re afraid of them. Professional hockey has fallen from being the fast, skilled sport we knew in the fifties and sixties to an MMA free-for-all overseen by blind referees who happily feed the masochistic crowd’s lust for blood. What a way to get your jollies.
Finally, the last five minutes of the news is a replay of all the horrors we have watched for the past forty minutes or so. I really do like to know what’s going on in the world and I confess I’ve frequently been frustrated by ignorant people who don’t seem to know what’s happening in current events. But it’s ultimately less stressful and depressing being simply ignorant. And the more I watch of the nightly news, the more convinced I become that that one hour per day would be better spent cleaning the fridge or pumicing my feet. And that’s why I’m going to miss Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart so much; they at least made me laugh when they delivered the news. Unfortunately, it’s no longer a laughing matter.
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