I suppose I've gotten lazy about my correspondence with Jon Carroll. I did manage to bang this letter out in response to one of his columns, but I'm too lazy to even give you the link. The column was about the press coverage surrounding the child in Michegan who was shot and killed by her classmate, and his feeling that it is overplayed in the press for their own reasons. I didn't receive a response, but I think he may have changed email addresses. And, naturally, I'm too lazy to bother finding out for sure. Anyway, let's get this over with.

Subject: Many Children Fail To Die

Dear Jon,

I'm writing about your piece, "Many Children Fail To Die". There are two reasons such a story makes national headlines, only one of which you alluded to. That is that the media decision makers want much tougher gun control than we have now, and they're going to run stories like this until us rubes out in readershipland get the message.

However, there is a basic problem with trying to understand our world from reading the news, no matter who is in charge of decision making. That is, news by definition is what is out of the ordinary. So all news reports are a distortion of reality, a negative image as it were. "Dog bites man is not news, man bites dog is" is a famous statement about what news is. As a news professional, I expect you even know who said that, but I as an amateur don't. Consequently, the best way to understand the world around us is to invert the stories. If crime reporting is up, then crime itself is down. Stories about social decay filling the airwaves means that society is improving.

The news media doesn't report on the reality of life, but the rarity. News reporting is just the Springer show without the bouncers, but with the tired moralizing at the end. If something actually effects your life or is important in the world, you won't read, see, or hear about it from the news media.

So I'm not one of those who worry and fret about too much "bad" news and wish the news media would report the good news. Frankly, my view is just the opposite. If the newspapers were ever full of nothing but good news, it would be time to sell everything, buy survivalist gear, and head for the hills. In fact, my idea of a perfect world is one where the only news run is old lurid tales of unsolved crimes like the Sheppard case or JonBenet Ramsey's murder - day after day, year after year on every page, on every channel. Because if that is the only thing that is out of the ordinary, life must be pretty good.

Kevin Murphy

Return me to Letter of the Week

Return me to The Murphy NexusTM

This page last updated 15 March 2000

© Contents copyright Kevin Murphy 2000. All rights reserved.