Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Attack of the Killer Barbie Dolls Turns Mass Media Reporting to Mush

I was not terribly surprised yesterday this overwrought headline arrived on my desktop: Killer Storm Faye Barrels Toward Florida.

The Dominican Republic and Haiti reported “numerous deaths,” according to the Agence France-Press report.

That just shows the usual fuzzy thinking about cause-effect relations that characterizes the Ken and Barbie approach to news reporting. The Dominican Republic and Haiti are two of the poorest countries in the western hemisphere. Whenever it rains hard, people are washed away in mud slides. They live marginal lives in huts cobbled together from corrugated metal, clinging to the least desirable pieces of real estate on mountainsides.

A more accurate headline would read: Homicidally Indifferent Government Causes Yet More Deaths.

Or perhaps: Extreme Poverty Takes More Desperate Lives.

Perfectly groomed Barbie and Ken reporters are not able to think too deeply about social forces. They are able, however, to recognize a really big wind and a lot of rain.

Any sort of weather emergency quickly exhausts their tiny vocabularies. Cause and effect reasoning is largely beyond their mental processes.

The Barbie dolls have killed good reporting as it used to exist when I first started out in journalism, so long ago that I pounded out my copy on ancient, high carriage typewriters -- in triplicate. It's all mush now. Social forces are the same as rain. A tropical depression with high winds and rain is a killer storm. I'm not sure what they'll do with the next hurricane. It will be apocalypse now, I suppose, in their oh-so-limited views of life and the world. Can we please have some grown-up reporters once in a while? Please?


Anonymous said...

well said.

Sylvia K said...

I do hope some turn up from somewhere, it is pretty sad. Good post!