We’re in our third week of visiting the grandkids (along with their outstanding parents) in Massachusetts and I’m starting to feel media deprived. I’m a news/information junkie, I cheerfully admit, and every time I’m in the US I start going into withdrawal. If it weren’t for the Internet, lord knows what sort of shape I’d be in. First, there’s television. The only thing we’ve watched has been the World Cup, usually on Univision because the guys on ABC wouldn’t shut up. When the Univision guys wouldn’t shut up, at least they wouldn’t shut up in Spanish, so it was pretty much white noise. And that’s it. We gave up on US television news around 2002, when everyone kept shouting at us “Countdown to Iraq!” with multiple exclamation points, in between all the pharmaceutical ads for something that would make me feel better if I asked my doctor about it. Why were they constantly shouting? Maybe they thought I was deaf, or didn’t understand how important it was to invade Iraq, or something. The one or two times we’ve sampled the news since then, they’re still shouting. And what did Katie Couric do to herself, anyway?
Then there are the newspapers. I do this just to go through the motions, and to remind myself why I gave up buying them in the US a long time ago. We got in on a Friday, so for the next two days I buy The Boston Globe, The New York Times, and the Weekend Financial Times. And really, it takes about fifteen minutes to go through the Globe and Times, no more, and that’s combined, including the time taken for actually turning the pages. Sunday takes longer, because first I have to wade through each paper to get rid of the stuff I don’t or won’t read, which is about one-third of the Times, and most of the Globe. But that’s a pointless exercise anyway, because there’s nothing to read in either one of them. Does everyone out there know that the Globe used to be a good newspaper before it was bought by the Times in the 1990s? So I end up just buying the FT every day, which amazingly I’m able to pick up at the local newspaper store downtown, so at least I can have some idea what’s going on in that world, which is what I’m heading back to when we go back to London. No wonder Americans know nothing.
Well, wait, what about radio? Good old NPR? Well, true, there is always NPR, and they do have CarTalk. But I’m listening to All Things Considered one evening early on, and the jobless numbers had come out that day, so after a brief discussion of the numbers themselves, for further insight they went to…E.J. Dionne, who at least is smart, and David fucking Brooks, who is the opposite of smart. What’s the point? Is this what NPR is reduced to? Thank heaven I’m no longer being asked to support them. I suppose they remain better than the alternatives, but that says nothing, really.
The UK media certainly has its faults. But it continues to have the BBC, The Independent, The Guardian, The Times (which remains a real newspaper in spite of being owned by Rupert Murdoch), and television news that doesn’t insult your intelligence. Most of the time, anyway.