Just because I nearly came close to doing the same thing when I was a brand new deppitty sherf, the headline of an AP story this morning caught my eye.
"Officer Wrecks Squad Car 20 Minutes into Job."
The A.P story, however, didn't match the headline. Turns out the car was parked in the hapless officer's own driveway when some goofball who "tested positive for drugs" ran into it and then hit a tree. The now car-less copper was not behind the wheel.
Reminds me of a story I reported several years ago. A woman was murdered in her home. Police actively hunted throughout the neighborhood for her killer and found him hiding under a house nearby. My anchor teased the story with, "Police managed to find a murderer today..." Like the officers had been sitting in a donut shop when the guy strolled in.
No wonder cops hate reporters. No wonder why a large percentage of the news-consuming public doesn't trust the media. The message is being managed so it best catches the eye. Accuracy? Pfffft!
Let's look at it in wider scope. How much of our country's financial nightmare is being caused by headlines that don't match the stories and, more important, stories that don't quite match the facts?
I'll be the first to admit that I'm not a stock market expert. My economic forecasts will never make Maria Bartiromo's knees quiver. My checkbook is balanced only because Quicken, in Garrett Morris' eternal words, "been berry berry good to me."
But, damnit, I know hype when I see it. I recognize the symptoms of a media frenzy.
Every day we're bombarded with messages that encourage us to panic.
"Gas prices shoot higher than...", "Cars abandoned; more people walking and biking as gas prices rise..."
"Stomach wrenching drop to Dow."
I was waiting for comparisons to 1929 and they finally started a few weeks ago. "Worst month for stocks since the Depression."
Just as I'm not a financial guru, I'm also not the poster boy for a positive attitude. I realize we're seeing a, and let me turn on the pompous announcer voice, "significant economic downturn." Anticipating that my days spent in front of a keyboard are numbered, I've been practicing my Wal-Mart greeter smile and watching how the best shopping-cart-wranglers do their job. And, just in case it gets worse than that, I've got my spoon and a big bowl ready for the soup lines.
But, c'mon people, do we have to opt for headlines and stories that are written to terrify? As if the gas station price boards and the signs over produce carts and in the meat aisle don't depress us enough.
Each time the national media hypes the disappearance of civilization (and Starbucks) as we know it, we edge ever closer to the End Times.
Come to think of it, that's not a bad name for a newspaper I could start when we're all living in tunnels. After the stock market crashes and the asteroid hits.
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