I’m writing and researching the topic of the axis resource known as water. As I am doing so I’m rather surprised by the tawdry level of coverage that it has gotten over the years. Especially when you compare it to other environmental issues like global warming or nuclear power.
This is really bizarre given that the EPA basically made it’s bonafides with the CWA and SDWA in the seventies. In those burnt orange days rivers still periodically caught fire. It would seem that the river Styx is necessary to keep our attention.
No one has made much noise about water since the early to mid aughts, when a brief stream of books and initiatives flowed steadily, petering out around 2011, with one last trickle as a Rolling Stone Article.
When I began working on the subject round 2015, eyes were rolled, and motives questioned. What could possibly be wrong with water? What warrants us paying attention to it? Was I seeking trendy dollars and hipster chick nookie?
Then my home state of South Carolina flooded and Flint happened. I’m still waiting for one of those perpetually busy people to ring me up with followups and apologetic beers.
I’d be waiting forever if I didn’t realize that not only have the folks probably forgotten our debates but floods and poisoned cities probably didn’t connect with the water issue.
Because, 57 Outrageous Things!
I really couldn’t have asked for a better headline. Let me explain my line of thinking.
I really do think that it’s the responsibility of the press and intelligentsia to help prevent things like Flint by reporting on the issues that would lead to their discovery before tragedy strikes.
So, I was going to make this article about how media coverage steers our focus to some things and away from others. I was going to do this to raise the question as to why water has not been covered more adequately.
You see. I haven’t seen it. I haven’t seen the coverage. And I haven’t seen it because of 57 outrageous things.
That was the one of the biggest headlines on CNN.com today. Right there at the top in all of its melodramatic glory.
It’s a title that really represents what the news is all about these days. 57 outrageous things. The news is an outrage factory.
Something which is in and of itself morally questionable. One could argue that addressing outrageous things is important. And it is. But which outrageous things? And should all the outrageous things be regarding just one topic?
In the case of our 57 Outrageous Things, it’s 57 Outrageous Things that Trump said in Arizona. Rather specific, that.
Yes, he is the president and if he is really saying outrageous things perhaps we should point out that they are outrageous.
To make it a headline on such a specific instance in one of the nations largest news outlets is bizarre. The news is an information service.
The business model rests on delivering useful information to viewers. At least in theory this useful information draws eyes to the channel or paper. Those eyes result in ratings which then result in revenue from advertisers.
Services were rendered. Happy informed citizens lent their eyeballs yet again. Advertisers were pleased. The transaction was completed. Neat, clean, and not the way it works at all.
The services rendered were 57 Outrageous things and not the news. 57 outrageous things is a title that belongs in an internet opinion column, or more fittingly TMZ. Regardless of whether it was the president or Joey from the bar that said it.
57 Outrageous Things is brilliantly illustrative of the tone and substance of modern news coverage. It’s a lot more P.T. Barnum then Edward R. Murrow. It is precisely the reason that huge global topics like water use get buried first behind outrageous things and then behind sensational things like Global Warming.
A made name, and attention for the wrong reasons, are what continues to draw advertisers to these thankfully waning organizations.
While I wouldn’t be terribly sad, on the day that the publishers of 57 outrageous things, had to hand in their press pass, I’d much rather see reform. I’d much rather see honest and thorough coverage on all of the topics that matter and not just the sensational ones.