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.