When news is not news

There is a phenomena in media that has been around for awhile now. It is something I had not really grasped the true implications of until the last few years, when I began to wonder why the media are steadfastly failing to report on certain issues. Not being a cynic or a conspiracy theorist, I had always regarded certain ideas as being too outlandish to be true and tended to try to avoid the people who fell into these crazy theorem.

However I cannot avoid the idea that there is a concept in journalism called infotainment, which is a combination of totally real information that people need to know infused with an almost absurd level of completely useless information. If you were to ask me for an example, I shall point you to the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement, which threatens the legitimate sovereignty of numerous nations around the Pacific rim, such as – but by no means limited to – New Zealand, Australia, China, Japan, the Philippines, United States, Canada, Russia, Chile among others, and the absolute worthlessness of the Kardashians.

The former is quite obviously news. It is a “free trade agreement” being negotiated by people from countries around the Pacific Basin. Its promoters say that it is a good thing and they claim it will introduce significant new opportunities in markets that we have not had access to in the past. However its detractors, who grow by the day are concerned that the sovereign right of the nations who are potential parties to the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement to pass laws might be challenged by corporations in a kangaroo court. Those corporations are worth tens of billions of dollars at the least. Some of them have bigger profits per annum than the entire G.D.P. of some small countries in Africa.

But let us switch to celebrities such as the Kardashians, the not so reality television shows such as X Factor, whose New Zealand franchise recently committed seppuku  and the . The Kardashians have done what for society? As far as I know, nothing. Nothing at all – so why do we care about them? Far more real than these programmes will ever be will be ones like Border Patrol, following people doing their daily jobs in their natural settings or following the working life of someone working in a police station or an Accident and Emergency department in a hospital.

In 2003, I watched a very good documentary about a couple of American volcanologists working in Ecuador. They were trying to unravel the secrets of Tungurahua volcano, which looms large over several large towns in Ecuador. In 1999 it awoke with little warning and caught the volcanologists in Ecuador by surprise. Over the years they began to piece together the history of Tungurahua and discovered some disturbing facts, such as it has laid down pyroclastic flow* deposits over the land on which their town of residence now existed; numerous towns were also in danger from flash flooding caused by rising heat in the volcano melting the snow cap of this 16,000 foot volcano. Against time and a rumbling tempestuous strato-volcano which could have devastated the town with no further warning, they managed to put together an evacuation plan for the town and communicate the hazards in a way the locals would understand.

I learnt more from that documentary, than I think I would have from watching any single reality television show series that has been screened in the past, is being screened now or will be in the near future. Why cannot we show more of these great documentaries and less of the Kardashian types about whom I know nothing and nor do I care to? Likewise, when a documentary came out the previous year about the fate of Pompeii and how an Icelandic volcanologist named Haraldur Sigurdsson had pieced together the most notorious eruption of Vesuvius, it was more interesting to many than why Kim and Khloe Kardashian do what they do, ever will be.

It is not to say historic documentaries are all relevant. Nor is it to say all celebrity gossip is irrelevant. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Of course people want to know what movies are coming out next and who will be in them. Of course they want to know who the up and coming talent in Hollywood is, but the Kardashians are not Hollywood. They are not even actors. They are just socialites – if even that – and rather boring ones to be totally honest.

And so, aside from it being fun target practice, I enjoy sniping on the Facebook pages of news outlets with stuff they either cannot or will not (in the case of Fox with regards to Muslims; N.Z. media networks with regards to the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement)cover, because the number of people being led up the garden path is too grave to ignore. And as I will point out at a later date, the Fourth Estate has responsibilities it would do well to discharge properly.

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