To be completely honest, I try very hard on a daily basis to shake my cynicisms, therefore I am constantly on the lookout for good, heart warming news. Alas, there is no such thing; one is hard-pressed to find a regular dose of warm and fuzzy at the moment.
It used to be that on morning news shows, for example, the weatherman or woman would read off a daily list of individuals celebrating their hundredth birthday. It only took a mere 30 seconds to get through the names, but it was cheery enough that it made you smile. Often, a candid photo of a birthday celebrant or two would be superimposed on the screen over the weatherman’s voice, which added to the feel-good vibes. And then, when the segment concluded, he’d hand off to the other anchors who would have, in those short seconds, caught the happy contagion and were themselves, feverishly delighted. Smiles all around. Warmth bubbling over.
There are no such moments to be found these days, the mundane joys of the average everyday person. Instead, good news has become that Jeff Bezos made $33 billion more over the COVID-19 pandemic, or that a random person achieved an extraordinary feat that regular people could never accomplish even on a great day.
Say, when a 6-year-old in her earnest naiveté sets up a lemonade stand to raise money for hospital workers: Someone posts her darling sidewalk table on social media and she ends up raising $150,000. Without a doubt, this is stupendous, but it’s abnormal, like winning the Powerball lottery. But these are the only kinds of regular good news the media seems to cover anymore. Something unbelievably joyous, and even more rare.
When it comes to the hard news, however, it appears as though the unfortunate turns of events are not enough. Instead, newspapers and networks are creating bad-ish news. It’s what I’ll call “flake" news, and it is far worse than fake news, if you ask me.
Consider these recent headlines:
• “Fauci Says It Could Be a Year Before Theater Without Masks Feels Normal” – The New York Times, Sept. 11, 2020
• “US could see a 'very deadly December' with tens of thousands of coronavirus death to come, computer model predicts.” – CNN, Sept. 11, 2020
• “Windy, dry conditions could rapidly spread wildfires throughout Western Washington.” – KOMO, Washington, Sept. 7, 2020.
Now, Thomas Fauci might also say that a vaccine “could” magically appear by Sept. 15 and not be entirely wrong. Computer models are a dime a dozen; one could easily report on a model that can predict that the country “could” see a sharp decline in infections. Of course, windy, dry conditions “could” spread fires, but they “could” also blow the other way.
“Could” is nonsense because anything is possible. No, this is not fake news, but it sure as hell is flaky.
In the absence of this outrageously used auxiliary verb, the headlining of reactions points to this rampant flak-ation. Donald Trump lying is the news; but Michele Obama’s reaction to it is not news. William Barr’s legal decisions are news; Chrissy Teigen’s Tweet about it irrelevant. Rolled eyes, side-eye and smirks have replaced the reporting of opposing facts. If there is a divide in this country, it’s not because leaders are corrupt – this is certainly not new information to anyone. Rather, we are manipulated into division because the plain truth about what occurs simply does not exist where it should.
Mainstream media, e.g., the big guys, really need to stop co-opting and exploiting social media to create legitimate content. It is mind-boggling that serious, educated, multi-million dollar compensated journalists actually get dressed, and have their makeup and hair done to earnestly look into the camera to report on a Twitter war between the Trump children and George Clooney. We are a country that freely indulges in this app, as well as in Instagram, TikTok and Facebook. The networks do not need to substitute a round-up of social media’s trash talk for a real opening story.
To the David Muirs, Lester Holts and Gayle Kings of the world, please stop reaching out to Nancy Pelosi for her reaction to Melania’s new rose garden. We don’t care what she thinks. Neither should you.
Instead, give us news when there is some. And if there isn’t, well then, no news is good news.
Dan Ho, a native of Agat, is a writer and teacher and holds a Ph.D. in indigenous studies. Follow his garden adventures on Instagram @HoandGarden.