News As Drama

News as dramaEach week brings new apocalyptic speculation along with very important messages from sponsors.

Children have trouble focusing their attention.  To get my son to turn all his attention to his homework (since when do first graders have homework, anyway?), we often need to mute or turn off the TV.  Handheld screens are completely off the table for him unless we are on a long car ride.  He doesn’t have the discipline to choose substance over sparkle.  YouTube knows that he and his generation love unboxing videos and shoddy animation.  Don’t think the media isn’t targeting you the same way.

As an adult, you should be immune to such base manipulation, right?  This is not the case.  Advertisers need to get you to self-diagnose moderate to severe Wandering Toe Syndrome and ask your doctor if Toeproxin™ is right for you.   How do they do that?  The adult version of unboxing videos is drama.  This used to be the domain of prime-time fictional television.  What used to be fact-driven programming now inserts drama to make their product appeal to more consumers.  The nightly news, online news media, and even sports reporting are incorporating story lines that would be more at home in an episode of Grey’s Anatomy or WWE than straight reporting.  The goal is to drive clicks and eyeballs.

A similar news-as-entertainment devolution occurred during the George W. Bush Presidency.  Code Pink garnered exposure far in excess of its actual support.  Unhinged critics warned that W was a fascist who was consolidating power and would not step down after his term.  Today’s reporting of speculation as fact is familiar to anyone who was paying attention back then.  The manufactured drama is exhausting and leaves weak-willed adults wanting to hear the next chapter (brought to you in part by Aging Celebrity Reverse Mortgages™).  The problem is that real news isn’t story driven, it’s fact-driven.  I’ve actually found myself watching more local news.  For some reason, they seem to only have time to cover the facts for national stories, leaving the drama for the local stuff.

So What Is News Today?

Puerto Rico declared a form of bankruptcy and that’s kind of a big deal!  We’ve got a handful of municipal debt problems (most notably Chicago) on the horizon here on the mainland, but they have manageable, if painful, solutions.  Because of the unique tax-exempt status, Puerto Rico was able to issue oodles of debt, but didn’t stop to think if they should.  This has been a slow-motion train wreck so there was plenty of time to get out of PR bonds, hopefully leaving vulture hedge funds as the majority of ownership rather than individual investors.  Folks who picked their own muni bonds and haven’t been following this story for the last few years may be in for a rude awakening.

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