Expanding my coverage

While reading Cronkite’s memoir (A Reporter’s Life) yesterday, I came across mention of how the national news was at one time only a fifteen-minute endeavor. It took some fighting, but eventually anchors and newscasters realized that fifteen-minutes just simply isn’t enough time to relay the nation’s news. The format was changed to the thirty-minute format that we currently enjoy.

The fifteen-minute newscast was a staple of radio, and was viable in that regard because there were no pictures or video to contend with. Thirty minutes was needed in order to not only tell the public about what was happening, but also to show them the details.

Cronkite mentioned a few lines later that most of today’s newscasters realize that thirty minutes isn’t even enough to cover everything in the world. In fact, I find that thirty minutes is a very liberal view of the total time used in a nightly newscast, considering the amount of coverage given to sports, weather, health, and special interest stories. Add in commercials, and I’d be surprised if the news even gets fifteen minutes anymore.

I bring all of this up because I see this same trend in my own “coverage,” by which I mean my own knowledge and active learning about anything in the news today. I am the type of person who just doesn’t give myself enough time to soak in the news. I skim the newspaper, for the most part. I subscribe to a number of political and news blogs, but truthfully I skim those as well. I know what the headlines are, but I don’t know what it means to me – at least not until it becomes such a big story that it blasts me over the head every day.

I know that, compared to the other things I pay attention to — literature, my personal writing, sports, work, Deadwood, the Indiana Pacers – actual news would be lucky to get even 15 minutes of airtime during my day. I’m just not broadcasting it enough into my own life.

There’s nothing wrong with this, I feel, as long as I admit it. I’m not going to tell you that I’m the most politically astute person in my group of friends – or even in my own house. I see how the sensationalistic 24-hour news channels are helping the downfall of true news (and by true news I mean that stuff that is actually non-biased, garnering just as many complaints from the right as from the left.) For the most part the public, of which I belong, is not willing to read through a chunk of news each day. Why pay attention to an hour of news when I can get it all sanitized and shrunk down for easy digestion? Why care about the boring stuff when I can get someone else to tell me what’s important?

I know I need to focus on what’s happening outside of my own area. I need to do this more. I need to take my personal fifteen-minute broadcast and broaden it, put it on public television without commercials and expand it to an hour.

That’ll be the only way I’ll ever be able to understand fully what’s going on in this world.

This was lovingly handwritten on November 24th, 2005