Parallel news worlds


I had to eat alone at a restaurant on Monday and so took along something to read while waiting for my food. But as is the annoying custom these days, they had a TV on in a corner of the room, which can be a huge distraction. Fortunately the TV was far enough away that I could not hear it but I noticed that they seemed to be showing live coverage of a trial. I was puzzled because I follow the news fairly closely and could not recall reading about any major court case that would warrant gavel-to-gavel live coverage.

Fortunately I could read the closed captioning and it said that it was the trial of Jodi Arias. The name meant nothing to me so I searched the web to see what it was about. It turns out that Arias is a young woman on trial for the murder of her ex-boyfriend, who was found dead in his home in 2008 of multiple stab wounds, a slit throat, and a shot to the head.

What struck me was that it drove home the point that I seem to be living in an alternative news universe. This case has been going on for nearly five years and seems to have been receiving mainstream media coverage and yet I had no idea. I suspect that my ignorance is because I do not watch TV but get my news mostly from the internet and some print sources. I suspect that a murder-sex story involving young women has great visual appeal (they kept zooming the camera in on her) and makes for good TV ratings.

One keeps reading how the internet is resulting on the population becoming politically fragmented, with people only watching news programs that reinforce their beliefs and not being exposed to opposing views, resulting in greater polarization and less understanding.

That may be true but I suspect that that may not be where the real problem lies. I think that people interested in political news cannot help but engage at least on some level with people who have different views.

The greater bifurcation may be with those who follow news about issues and tune out so-called ‘human-interest’ news (like the Arias case) and those who do the opposite. It is similar to the Olympics. I stopped watching the Olympics on TV mainly because I wanted to just see the events and instead the networks would spend a lot of time on the personal stories of the athletes, which bored me to tears. Clearly there must be a larger audience for the latter since the networks went with that choice.

Comments

  1. sunny says

    I heard about the Arias case only recently and was quite surprised that I had not heard about it before.

    “Clearly there must be a larger audience for the latter since the networks went with that choice.”
    There are entire networks dedicated to such programming. I do not have a television but I have no choice but to stare at the numerous screens at the gym.

  2. Ysidro says

    Where I work, we must keep one channel on a television tuned to cable news (fortunately the channel is not specified and sound is optional). This case is on all of them, every day. Some new twist or event or reconstruction or analysis seems to crop up regularly. My favorite was the one about her doing yoga in the interrogation room. Pointless.

    And yet, why is it more important than other trials? Why is this case getting coverage? The only reason I can think of is because an attractive white woman is accused of killing her boyfriend. And I really wish that reason didn’t make sense to me.

  3. jamessweet says

    I am also a (international) news junkie, and also have not heard of this.

    I used to get my news from cnn.com. Now I get it primarily from news.bbc.co.uk. So yeah, I don;t hear about this stupid shit.

  4. MNb says

    “the personal stories of the athletes”
    Football (both the American and the ROW version) players should play football, not talk. With precious few exceptions (Johan Cruyff is funny and Willem van Hanegem a cynic; I suppose that there are some non-Dutch equivalents) they don’t have anything sensible to say.
    In general I avoid all human interest. Some background is useful, but your childhood stories are far from the main reason I read your blog.

  5. AsqJames says

    “I suspect that a murder-sex story involving young women has great visual appeal (they kept zooming the camera in on her) and makes for good TV ratings.”

    As long as it’s the attractive young woman who’s in the dock anyway. In 2008, 45% of female murder victims in the US were murdered by a partner or ex-partner. How many of those cases get “gavel-to-gavel” network coverage?

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