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“As anchorman of the CBS Evening News, I signed off my nightly broadcasts for nearly two decades with a simple statement: ‘And that’s the way it is.’ To me, that encapsulates the newsman’s highest ideal: to report the facts as he sees them, without regard for the consequences or controversy that may ensue.”

Walter Cronkite

Nightly News

At the end of every day people who suffer from FOMO (fear of missing out) go to their media source of choice to catch up on the news of the day. People like to be described as “ informed” when friends talk about them. “He owes me money, he didn’t show up for the party, he never stops talking, he hasn’t returned the lawn mower I leant him 2 years ago, he hugs young ladies a little too long at funerals, but man he is up to speed on current events. He is more informed than an informant”

Not too long ago television stations broadcasted 30 minutes of nightly news. They did this because every night there was truly only about 30 minutes of interesting things that had happened that day. Most days there was really only 15 minutes of news so networks created filler items like cats rescued from a tree, or old people celebrating their 100th birthday to honour their commitment of broadcasting 30 minutes of nightly news.

Occasionally a president in the United States would be assassinated, which would expand broadcasts well past 30 minutes and ruin the cartoon-watching kids’ weekends.

Then some guy with a broken antenna walked into a TV station to complain about the poor reception on his black and white TV. The frustrated employee had been dealing with these complaints for years. In a moment of desperation the employee handed the complaining customer a piece of cable.

“Next time your antenna acts up, try using this cable.”

This is how cable TV began.

When channel options mushroomed from 5 to 500 stations, programming was opened to anyone who had a hobby, a camera or internet access to YouTube. A lady in Des Moine Iowa lied in bed and thought “Why is there not a baking channel on TV?” Her husband was also lying in bed beside her wondering “Why aren’t there two fishing channels on TV?” The children in their beds dream of a 24 hour cartoon station.

In Atlanta Ted Turner forgot that there was only 30 minutes of news every day and created CNN to stop a second fishing channel from forming. Viewers too, forgot that there was only 30 minutes a day of actual news and started watching CNN. O J Simpson believed there was 30 minutes of news everyday, but perhaps if he murdered his ex-wife and new boyfriend, he could be part of that 30 minute news broadcast to bolster his fledging movie career. What O J didn’t realize was that, the new news stations knew, or more cleverly New News Knew this, but like OJ, news networks had 24 hours to kill. A simple drive in a white Bronco changed the news forever.

CNBC, Headline News, Fox, BBC, CBC, CTV, and hundreds of others followed the formula and today 30 minutes of news is followed by 23 and 1/2 hours of talking about the news. This is where things get a little blurry.

Breaking News happens every 10 minutes as one politician disagrees with another politician. As viewers forget the difference between fact and opinion, clever news targets declare all of it “ Fake News” and the 30 minutes of actual important information gets lost in the crowd.

“We Know” is used less as “We think”, “We believe “ and “We suggest” dominate 23 1/2 hours of discussing the real news.

So what’s a mother to do? Teach your children well. When your children complain that dad is cranky, sit them down and tell them that this is an opinion, not a fact. Then educate them as you explain dad is not cranky but he is grumpy, that is not an opinion, that is a fact.

Dad always tells jokes. Fact.
Dad tells great jokes: Dad’s opinion
Dad tells lame jokes: Family’s opinion
Dad isn’t funny: Everybody’s opinion … therefore a fact.

I suppose the difficult search for truth is a never ending pursuit as we absorb, assess and delineate information through our biased brain. Some only explore ideas that match their own views. Others find contrasting views but dismiss them as unreliable.

Journalism is a time honoured vocation that has slowly diminished as a career opportunity, and that degree is becoming as helpful as a PHD in Blacksmithing. Newspapers like The New York Times, magazines like Playboy, which men bought for the articles and other traditional sources of news are fading away. Online legitimate versions of news unfortunately compete with unreliable sources, as the blur of truth and facts gets blurrier. CSPAN, NPR and Billy Bob’s Bowling podcast get equal viewership. When more people follow the Kardashians then The Washington Post, we are in for some interesting times ahead.

So what’s a mother to do?  I appreciate I asked that question before, but watching cable news, I have learned that you just keep asking the same question, until you actually get an answer.  There is something called the “scientific method” that is used by scientists to confirm or deny a truth. This approach has helped others to understand that an unrepeatable test was unreliable.  16 year old kids failing their drivers test will argue this one, but dad will conclude that every laugh from every joke he constantly repeats disproves the “Dad isn’t funny” theory above.

My science teacher in school did his best to reenforce this method, but my difficulty in igniting my bunsen burner with that unreliable flint, made learning difficult at the time.

Like resetting the clock in my car twice a year, science is bewildering to me. I steered away from topics that started with “Bio”, “Phys”, “Chem”, during my later education, hoping that others would do the hard work, while I wrote essays on Chaucer.

A month ago, Breaking News erupted as a gentlemen crashed a helicopter on top of a building in Manhattan.

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/helicopter-crashes-building-midtown-manhattan-n1015831

Years ago this would not have made the thirty minute nightly news, however Cable News talked, and talked about this story for 2 straight days.  Experts like retired helicopter pilots, retired roof inspectors, that guy on the fishing channel and an eyewitness with a phone were giving opinions on the matter. Psychologists explored the pilot’s state of mind, while former FBI agents discussed lone wolf terrorism theories.  In the end, no truth emerged about the story and the world moved on to the next news item. Competing networks argued about the state of our environment where scientists warned, politicians ignored and Billy Bob’s Bowling podcast declared the world is flat.

“The truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is.”

Winston Churchill

Cue the Blong: As the first line of the song says “Information Overload”…

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