Where Can I Get the News?

I’m tired of subjective, sensationalist, celebrity-heavy news.

Yesterday, on our way back from Red Creek, we saw a very large fire burning down near Phoenix, just northwest of South Mountain. The smoke could be seen from miles away — we had to be at least 30 miles north of there as we flew past. I wondered what the fire was and decided to check a local Phoenix-area news site for information.

I found all kinds of headlines there, but not one about a fire. Did you know a 5-year-old was grazed by a bullet yesterday? Or that Horton, the valley’s most “graphic” murderer (whatever that means), had been sentenced? Or that there are bedbugs in New York?

One click on the same Web site will tell you what to do with all the pretty candles around your house (perhaps put a match to them?), provide information about plastic surgery (I guess that’s real important to some people), and display television listings (so you can go from one screen right to another).

But the thing that really bugged me was the article about Gonzo. I didn’t even know who Gonzo was until I clicked the link. (Call me a sucker.) Gonzo is Luis Gonzales, a Diamondbacks outfielder. Evidently, he was on his way to a workout yesterday when he witnessed a rollover accident — a relatively common occurrence in the Phoenix area. He and several other witnesses rolled the pickup truck back over so the driver could get out. The result: Front Page News!

A few years back, my brother took an exit ramp too fast in his Jeep Wrangler and rolled it onto its side. The people who had been behind him on the ramp stopped to help. Together, they rolled the Jeep back onto its wheels. My brother thanked the people who helped him, cursed the broken mirror on the passenger side, restarted the engine, and drove away. The story didn’t even warrant a sentence in a newspaper.

But that’s because some major celebrity wasn’t involved in the righting of the vehicle. A celebrity with an agent who made sure he called the media to let them in on the celebrity’s “heroism.”

Give me a break. In my mind, heroism is a word applied to heros. Was the pickup truck burning and about to explode? Was it dangling on the edge of a precipice, about to fall in? Was the man trapped inside seriously injured? (If so, righting the vehicle with him still inside it was likely to make his injuries even worse.) Was he really trapped inside at all? If there was no immediate danger to the victim or the rescuers, I can’t see how the word hero could be applied to any of them. They were merely good samaritans, helping out a fellow motorist who couldn’t help himself. Isn’t that good enough?

Perhaps. But it doesn’t make front page news.

Please understand that I’m not Gonzo-bashing here. (I think anyone who helps someone in need is a good person who deserves a thank you, a handshake, and a pat on the back. Isn’t that enough for all of us?) I might be Gonzo’s agent-bashing, though. And I’m certainly bashing whatever newspapers thought this story was important enough to include as a major headline.

This country is entirely too focused on celebrities. We want to know what they’re wearing, who they’re married to, who they’re divorcing, how many babies are in the oven (or in adoption proceedings), what they eat, who they’re saying nasty things about, who they’re saying nice things about…you get the idea.

We even buy based on what celebrities say. Oprah puts her seal of approval on a poorly written “memoir” that was rejected as fiction by 17 publishers before finally being published, and it sells 3.5 million copies in a matter of months. What’s the thought pattern here? Oprah says its good and she’s a celebrity so it must be good.

And if it isn’t celebrity news and opinion, it’s tragedy. People want to know about the 5-year-old’s bullet graze and how much time the murderer got for his crime. People want to read about the last moments of the miners and hear the grief-stricken comments of the family members they left behind. People are tickled pink when one of our senators calls Venezuelans “wackos” — when the rest of the world considers Americans power-hungry imperialists.

Americans want to live their lives through the lives of other people. They’re not interested in building their own interesting lives. That’s why all those supermarket tabloids — not to mention the popular daily tabloids like the New York Post and the Daily News — sell so well. That’s why “reality” television is taking over prime time.

Me, I’m just looking for a good source of news that’s objective, non-sensationalist, and doesn’t treat celebrities any differently than other people. Do you know where I can get something like that? If so, use the Comment link to tell me.

What do you think?