Cartoonist and essayist Ted Rall asks a good question.
This is for you older readers: when did news conferences become long-winded acceptance speeches?
I’m too young to remember for sure, but there must have been a time when, after a train derailment or a tornado or a flood or a race riot or whatever, public officials stepped up to the microphones to deliver a status update (“as soon as we learn more, we’ll let you know”), and perhaps some advice to the public (“avoid downed live wires, especially the ones that are sparking, like in that movie The Ice Storm”), answered reporters’ questions and left the stage.
Today’s news conferences are a dreary, undignified mélange of pro forma acknowledgements and sentimental pabulum.
He then gives example after example of public officials thanking everyone and even offering prayers and uplifting messages.
Although I am one of the older readers he is addressing, I don’t know the exact answer to his question but I can testify that he is correct about the current state of affairs. For example, a few days ago, we got a recorded phone message from my wife’s employer whose offices are in downtown Cleveland. They have an automated system to call everyone and alert them to any problems that might prevent them from getting to and from work. There had been concern that demonstrations in the wake of the acquittal of the Cleveland police officer in the shooting death of two unarmed people might lead to trouble in the downtown area where her office is.
When that fear dissipated, the system sent out a recording that began by saying that all offices would be open as usual. So far, so good. But then the recording by this unknown person went on to offer prayers and condolences to all involved, which I thought was quite unnecessary in what should have been a purely businesslike message.
But that seems to be the new normal, where public officials seem to feel that they also have to play the role of pastor or counselor.