Newsworthy: "Of sufficient interest or importance to the public to warrant reporting in the media"
- American Heritage Dictionary
Of all the changes to life as we (used to) know it following the events of Sept. 11, few are as striking to me as what we talk about now - or, more specifically, what were not talking about. There are exceptions, of course, like the lady who complained because her local television stations didnt re-run the episodes of her favorite soap operas that were pre-empted during the initial days of the crisis.
But for the most part, if there can be an upside to something so terrible, there are some things Im delighted to no longer see on the front page.
The Gary Condit story is the first non-news Im cheering. In case youve forgotten, soap operas were practically the only programs not pre-empted by the non-stop coverage of the congressman and his did-he-or-didnt-he dalliance with a young intern. For the sake of the young womans family, I hope the investigation into her disappearance is still going on, but the disappearance of every real or fictional detail of the congressmans life is a welcome change.
I might not have noticed the second disappearing act if I hadnt picked up the latest issue of The Spirit and couldnt find The Whine Line. Guess what? Its shrunk. Most weeks that reader-written section describing how terrible things are in the CSRA - and how awful the people are who make it that way - spills over onto at least four pages. Last week it didnt even cover two. Can it be that people arent finding as much to complain about now? Or maybe the on-air antics of a local talk-show host, or the sins and omissions of our elected officials, dont seem as important anymore.
And then theres the other hot story of the year(s) which, for now, has taken a sabbatical from the editorial pages: wrangling over who started, won, or should have won the Civil War, and the residual debate over which Georgia flag best reflects a gallant past. As an obvious Yankee, I for one couldnt be happier about the missing attacks on a heritage I revere as passionately as my Southern neighbors honor theirs. In the words of an old antacid commercial: Oh what a relief it is.
Other topics are AWOL, too. Nationally, not much is being said these days about Social Security or campaign finance reform, who really won the last election, or whether its OK to have five or ten milligrams (thousandths of a gram) of arsenic in a measured quantity of water before we annihilate ourselves. And locally, I havent read much lately about the Augusta city administrators efforts to pad his office staff by unpadding taxpayers pocketbooks, or how terrible the Columbia County commissioners were to allow Wal-Mart to make its presence here.
Recently, when someone asked syndicated columnist George Will when he thought Americans could start laughing again, he said, How about right now?
Good advice, George, and Im trying. But for the first time in months Im searching for ways to make this column longer rather than cutting it down to fit my assigned space.
You see, I just cant stop thinking about the news that IS on the front pages now and forcing newspaper editors to make room for more. No matter how boring or unpleasant the above topics were, Id take a hundred more inanities if we could just pre-empt the news thats there now.
Below the surface stream of what we say and feel...,
There flows with noiseless current, strong, obscure, and deep,
The central stream of what we feel indeed.
- Matthew Arnold
(Barbara Seaborn is a local free-lance writer. E-mail comments to email@example.com.)
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