Controversy | La Polimique
Let’s consider that old saying, “No news is good news,” for a minute.
The general concept was that if you didn’t hear anything, then things were probably okay (I always found this to be true of the opposite: what, for example, if someone took off on a trip around the world and you never heard from them?). For the press, no news equals no press, because apparently “good news is not considered newsworthy.
What is it that makes us, as a society, gravitate towards bad news, towards grisly horrors and sad events that are someone’s very real, personal tragedy? We love to read about double homicides, kidnappings, controversies; headlines blast across the front of newspapers shouting drama to the world. About the only good news that’s ever given decent coverage, it seems, are award ceremonies (Oscars, Grammy’s, Emmy’s), winning sports games (don’t get me started on the Superbowl madness) and weddings (although the press, especially gossip rags, will make endless quips and speculations and then delight when the couple divorces months down the road). Why is good news so….uninteresting?
Perhaps we as human beings just like to know that other people have problems, too. Maybe we’re innately jealous when good things happen to other people. When a celebrity gets married, there’s a lot of hoopla regarding things like the dress, the cost, the guests, but when a celebrity gets divorced, the news is that much more ‘exciting.’ Some major news websites, like France’s Le Monde, have a sidebar that lists the most -shared or popular articles on the site. Lo and behold, the most popular stories are either horrible or overly-dramatic. (The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee versus a man eating another man’s face? Who do we think we’re kidding?)
A friend who works for the United Nations recently remarked to me that peace is “boring,” and that if countries decided to act pratical and practice peace, then he would be out of a job. I was struck by how honestly true/honestly terrible the remark was. But it’s true: people benefit (perhaps not the right word) and make a living off of…tragedy. Journalists, detectives, UN workers, funeral home owners and all those crime scene investigators: their jobs exist because controversy and tragedy exist.
Is peace really boring? Is joy truly uninteresting? Perhaps not, if the world of personal blogging is any indication. WordPress (and other blogs) is the one media where controversy seems to be forbidden. Bloggers may critique and share their opinions, but generally when they do it’s about movies, actors, fashion and other such things. If “Freshly Pressed” is any indication, all people really care about is food recipes (yawn), me-me-me anecdotes and vacation photos. I love travel photos, but when they’re accompanied by an interesting analysis and comparaison of the place, NOT a blow-by-blow of the trip (i.e., “Then we walked to the beach. It started to rain. We ate lunch at noon. My bed was too small). That is BORING!
Where are the unique editorials, the cutting critiques of world issues, economy, politics, culture? Adorably Caffeinated’s “Seinfeld Episodes that Wouldn’t Work Today” post, which has been Freshly Pressed, was the first FP blog that I felt truly deserved it, because the author relied on wit and intelligence alone, not superb photographs of a mountain or beach or bland writing.
Maybe the media have it all wrong. Yes, we buy papers and stay glued to the news when things like a murder trial (ahem, the Casey Anthony trial and now the Zimmerman trial) because we can’t help it, literally: besides in the blogosphere, good news cannot be found except maybe in one of those cheesy women’s magazines like Women’s World. Wordpress shows that people want more ‘feel-good,’ homey stories. Would people keep buying the papers if the world became a little more peaceful, a little less dramatic? Probably, if WordPress is any indication. But I’m sure the journalists would all be having a snooze.