EVEN ON OUR PHONES, the news pops up as headlines that can be tracked to the source for the details. The ubiquitous goings-on around the world keep us attached to situations in other time zones. These include the progress (or lack thereof) of the invasion of Ukraine, the ups and downs of discovered documents in the US, the fall of governments in countries nearby.
With news so accessible, we know what’s going on in other parts of the world, especially in its media capital which is the USA. Maybe if we spoke French or German beyond “where is the nearest subway?” we would also tune in on Davos.
Because of the limitation on language and maybe common interests, our attention (maybe even obsession) focuses on America making us faux experts on what is happening there. Our knowledge is filtered by the biases and political leanings of the media outlets that we track. Might we feel ready to be talking heads and instant resource persons ourselves spouting second-hand knowledge and analysis, at least around the dining table?
Following the news has become a spectator sport, just another game to watch. You don’t like that raspy heavily accented voice in the local news? Switch to the other team led by someone with a more interesting hairdo. As in sports there are in the news villains and heroes, unforced errors (Did you need to make another trip?), and cheering squads, as well as victory over visiting teams.
It is not mere curiosity that engages us to follow events around the world like meteorologists tracking typhoons and their expected landfall. We excuse this trivial pursuit by telling ourselves that what happens in the world somehow has an impact on us. This helps us feel engaged in what’s going on in Vietnam too. It makes our appreciation of noodles more meaningful.
Here are some similarities between news and our favorite spectator sports like that box-office breaking seventh game recently.
The referees — news editors and talking heads — don’t always catch the infractions and the players get away with a charging foul and even get to make a bonus free throw. Is this biased officiating? Not always, but often enough.
Unforced errors by newsmakers can shift the narrative from a story of economic recovery to noted absences in local crisis like the price of onions and the manhandling of an airline crew. Just like an unguarded basketball player bringing down the ball from the backcourt, being too slow to cross the mid-court and get called for a six-second violation, lack of focus can throw the game away.
Like all sports spectators, we sometimes feel like experts and discuss where the coaching went awry.
The news medium’s penchant for sound bites simplifies, if not distort, complicated issues. (Aren’t all world issues complicated?) This is no different from acquiring literary appreciation from watching movie versions of books without needing to read the original. Okay, maybe Lolita in the movies may be more interesting than reading Nabokov’s tale of a middle-aged man’s fascination with a girl with slipped sunglasses licking a lollipop. (It’s sugar-free.)
International news channels occasionally include unimportant countries like ours to justify their world coverage, and Asia-wide reach. Globally, our role as a worthy news topic involves mayhem events such as an airport crisis and typhoon victims. Still, with our OFWs spread all over the world, maybe local news has a global following.
We always get back to local news as we struggle with more recognizable situations like an icing-rubbing incident on a waiter or the release of a noontime host on bail. What about the still-jailed senator and the quickly absolved dope runner?
Even with the appointment of a communications officer for the seat of power, not much news on the palace leaks out. It’s as if the office has been instructed to avoid feeding the media. And that seems to be working. There are no confirmations or denials, just nobody there. Don’t you miss the fat guy with elaborate denials on the leader’s medical condition?
Citizens with single passports like most of us are exposed to real life as news. Local events are seen in one’s neighborhood and through one’s car windows when stuck in traffic. News is what is happening around us, unedited, with the sound turned up…and with no commercial breaks.
Tony Samson is chairman and CEO of TOUCH xda