I hereby exile you to France….
One of the side effects of having spent our lives in the “information desert” is that we define ‘news’ as ‘what is happening now’.
When you only have a handful of crews to cover a major city, or a handful of crews to cover the world for that matter, you tend to become reactive.
You have to be. Its all you’ve got.
In the information desert, assignment editors sit next to police scanners and wait for the next car crash, then rush the crew to film the carnage.
They sit by the fax machine and wait for the next press release for the next press conference so they can dispatch the crew.
On a good day you get a bridge collapse. On a bad day, you get domestic shooting.
Is this news? For sure.
Is it of any value? Maybe… sometimes… The bridge collapse… interesting if a bit morbid, at least for those of us who live far from the event. We are pretty much in the ‘Jeez, look at that!” mode, as opposed to, “this is really of value as it is going to effect my drive to Westhampton Beach this afternoon”. As far as the wife shooting the girlfriend – purely entertainment – along with Lindsay Lohan.
Like I said, we are reactive.
It happens, we go.
And this ‘reactive nature’ of news goes all the way up the food chain to Iraq. We wait for stuff to happen, then we ‘cover’ it.
Yesterday I listened to Republican candidate Rudolph Giuliani talk about health care. He must have used the word ‘socialist’ about a dozen times – all of them bad. (For our European readers who might not understand this, in the USA, ‘socialist’ and ‘communist’ are pretty interchangeable – and on the same level as ‘terrorist’. We are a simple people.
“So how do we fix healthcare? The American way. Not the French way, not the English way, not the Cuban way, not the Canadian way. How do we fix it the American way, and make it work better for everybody?
Now, for anyone who has lived in France or England (as I have) and needed medical attention (as I have), you cannot beat the service or the quality or the price (which is free). France is in fact reputed to have the best health care in the world, and for far less than we pay.
This is, of course, something most Americans don’t know anything about. As only an estimated 7% of Americans even have passports, they certainly don’t have a living clue what health care is like in France, or England, or Germany or ironically, Israel (which never seems to get mentioned) or the Netherlands…
….or Switzerland or Sweden.. in fact, in pretty much the rest of the western world.
Now, Michael Moore got us off to a pretty good start with Sicko, but it is only a start.
Where have the major ‘news’ organizations been on this issue (with their enormous budgets and ability to get into everyone’s home every night) for the past, oh, 30 years?
Health care? Oops… forgot about this one. Or, better yet, ‘we do medical stories. Tonight Doctor Bob will look at plastic surgery again’.
In the 1950’s, at the very naisance of television news, my former mentor in this business, Fred Friendly, produced Harvest of Shame with Edward R. Murrow. Now THAT was some pro-active television news.
We should do this all the time.
We can and should become the nexus of public discourse on important issues.
News and an ongoing national dialogue about things that really matter.
Because if we make an effort to include; to open the news from ‘here’s some stuff about Lindsay Lohan for you to look at’, to ‘here’s an issue we think is of concern. What do you know/think about this one…”, we will all be better prepared to respond to Giuliani’s comments about ‘France’ or ‘England’ with an educated, informed answer.
Something like, “what are you talking about? Don’t you know anything?”
And if we can learn to do it on healthcare, God willing, one day we could learn to do it for Iraq.. or Iran.