Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Can't Get No Satisfaction

No data this week. No macroeconomics this week. On to “Other Stuff.”

In their 1965 song Can’t Get No Satisfaction*, The Rolling Stones sang something like “When I’m drivin in my car, and a man comes on the radio. He’s tellin me more and more about some useless information. Supposed to fire my imagination…”

How prophetic! While this topic has bothered me for quite a while, it really came home to roost this last week with respect to the Kim/Trump Summit. I have never heard the same crapola repeated so often in the media within a week.

But let’s back up. I love the fact that we have freedom of the press. They should be free to decide what to report and how many times to report it. That’s their business decision, and they are free to do that. But that does not mean that their decisions are always good, and in the case of the last week I think their decisions were horrible.

What happened to the good old days of news with Walter Cronkite? We had Ralph Renick in Miami, but it was the same thing. They told us what was going on in the USA and to some extent in the world, too. When it was time to render an opinion, the lights flashed and horns blared (exaggeration), and we all understood this was not news. It was Ralph’s opinion about something. Lights would stop and then back to the news.

But even more important than the distinction between news and opinion was that Ralph was not a professor of a music or of a foreign language. In music and foreign languages, one learns and becomes accomplished through practice. And then more practice. It is normal in music and language learning that you would do the same thing over and over and over. You expected that. Donde esta la biblioteka? I must have said that 10,000 times in 10th grade Spanish class. I am currently learning to play the guitar. I learned how to do a G chord. Four years later, I am still struggling with mastering the G chord. And no Tuna – I don’t mean G string!

You think I am on my fourth JD but I am not. My point is that the press – whether on the left or right – have decided that it isn’t enough to give us their opinion. They have to hammer it in. And then cement it in. Apparently all the other stuff that is going on in the world isn’t worth their time and effort. They would rather spend their endless hours of news time hammering in simple opinion themes.

In the last couple of weeks, how many times have you heard that Trump was giving a world stage to dictator Kim? How many times did we hear that we will retain sanctions until Kim has totally dismantled all his nuclear weapons including his Lionel train set? How many times does it take?

Keep in mind that in all the lead-up to the meeting between Kim and Trump, there was actually very little news. Yes, there is a meeting. Yes, it is in Singapore. Yes, Trump said he will insist on a total end to Kim’s nuclear war capability. Yes, Kim wears a striped suit and has a cool haircut. But that was about it. After the meeting, there was a very short meeting summary that said almost nothing. How many times can a reporter tell you that a summary was short and said nothing? Apparently 10,000 times would be okay. Most of us can repeat the main left and right talking points about Kim/Trump in our sleep.

Is there nothing going on in the world that we are subjected to repeats of the exact same information and themes multiple times each day in multiple media? Why do we hear over and over the minutia of Hillary’s emails, Trump’s Russia conspiracy, Comey’s latest burp, and so on. Does the press really think that most of us could not get through a day without having them enflame us with these ongoing but sloth-like sagas? Why can’t we have a moratorium on all this and ask the appropriate bodies to decide if Trump should do an extra 10 push-ups while Hillary goes to Charm School? Shut out all the daily noise. Wait for a decision. Then report it. In the meantime, shut up. Please. 

Then maybe we could receive some in depth and thoughtful insights into why we can’t win a war on poverty or crime or can’t seem to balance the nation’s budget. Or maybe we could learn more about why some Italians might want to follow Britain in exiting the European Union. Give us the news and give us your opinion. But please, stop being the good language professor. It's getting really boring. La bioblioteka es enfrente de la iglesia.

*Otis Redding made a wonderful rendition of this song too. Not sure which one I like more. 


  1. The media wouldn't continue to report the same stories or give their opinions over and over again if people didn't watch. If ratings fell they would change the format in a heart beat. A better question is why are we tuning in to hear the same old things? Is it because we have chosen a side and want to see if our side is winning?

  2. For starters, let's just say "I agree". I have thought for a long time that the issue with news--cable, mainstream, any and all sources--is a simple supply and demand problem. We simply have too many people who are practicing/masquerading as journalists. So, in any situation of over supply, the demand will be met by
    provisioning fewer and smaller snippets of "news". Additionally, if you over supply the number of minutes of news, even in a situation of smaller and smaller bites of "news", you will get repetition. I recently attended a marvelous lecture by a Professor of Journalism and Communications from Northwestern University who described with great honesty the emptiness of the students who are fighting to get admission to this prestige journalism school. Most don't read a newspaper, see the profession as an extension of social media, and are generally tuned to the world of the "push"sound bite. They practice dramatically saying "Breaking News" 100 times a day ( the latter observation is my comment, not the distinguished professor).Conventional journalism, where the language is perfected and the story has a logical beginning, middle, and end, coupled with an observable duty to state the facts and prove the assumptions, has been replaced with digital short streams, which focus on customizing the headline, not the story, and which are channeled based on your previous bias as to viewpoint. So, until we turn it off, and advertisers sense that they ar not getting value for their ad dollar, this is the diet we will eat.

  3. Dern, LSD . . . wuz hop'n to hear 'bout yer progress on popp'n yer G string. And I didn't know Otis said the library wuz in front of the church. Could it have been Chuck Berry?

  4. Amen! I have graduated to One America News (OAN) where cute high school girls read the news just like the old HLN people used to do with no opinion thrown in. Of course, in the evening, OAN moves over to commentary, read opinion, and I watch Andy Griffith and Everybody Loves Raymond reruns when that takes place.

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  6. Dern LSD. Wuz hoping to learn more ‘bout yer progress pluck’n yer G-string. Also didn’t know Otis knew wut a library is, much less where a church is. Didn’t Chuck Berry so that stuff?