It’s hard to decide what’s more annoying—this winter’s weather or the reaction by our local news outlets. Here in the central Connecticut area the ratings war has always been fought by Channels 3 and 30. Downstate we have that New Haven news which, no matter how “capital city” they try to be, most of us will always associate with that place nobody wants to drive to…or in. And of course there’s the early news which gets the jump on everyone else and provides a slew of good field reporters, but they’ll always be the other other news, behind the other news. So there’s 3 and 30, and the battle over who can be more annoying rages.
The Channel 3 detractors will fall back on the inanity of naming winter storms—something that station has done for around four decades. Admittedly it only became excruciating when the Weather Channel began the same practice, but it’s always been annoying, especially when we consider that the weather is an adjunct of the news (even though this winter it seems to be the news.) But as news it doesn’t need a cute name—or any name. We don’t go hanging labels on news items unless they are self-generated: 9/11, Pearl Harbor, Columbine. We don’t, apparently, feel the need to label a robbery at the local convenience store Criminal Act Sally or a house fire Conflagration Steve, even though there may have been eighteen previous conflagrations. At least we don’t feel the need…yet.
Channel 30’s critics need look no further than See It-Share It—a device by which unskilled photographers with little sense of newsworthiness snap pictures of dogs with snowy coats or children with…uh…snowy coats and submit them as news, thereby relieving the station of its responsibility to provide actual news while verifying something we already knew: we don’t really have to know anything so long we can smile at our animal friends or our offspring. See It-Share It is pretty much the opposite of news and very much the opposite of what a television news department should be doing. I suppose blurring the lines between Facebook and local news is financially beneficial; after all, the ratings for social media will always outstrip those of a local TV outlet. And it’s certainly thrifty—why hire someone when you can employ the willing public for free.
Every day we hear of newsprint dying, of the written word residing in a kind of limbo, of nobody under the age of thirty bothering to read a paper. If that’s true, then it’s just as likely that our ignorance of world affairs today is still in its rudimentary stage—twenty, thirty years from now, imagine how little we can know. We have this mistaken idea that we’re informed because we’re always connected, but we’re connected to nothing more than storms named after cities and Golden Retrieves in snow drifts. Maybe it’s time to disconnect and pick up a newspaper.