Lately, I have been unable to avoid the fact that the huge preponderance of our local news, here in Maine--and I assume it's the same around the country--is about pathos. It has probably always been this way, but now I am just more painfully aware that tuning in means I am going to be bombarded with one story after another about insignificant people acting in shabby ways.
Why, exactly, do I need to know that some high-school drop-out murdered his ex-girlfriend and her current boyfriend in some sordid apartment in (name your city, or town)? I mean, what end does it serve? How am I benefited in the least by knowing this? And, if I were to survey the entire viewership, how many people out there in t-v land would feel that this was in any way relevant to their lives?
I am going to hazard a guess that it would be on the order of a tiny fraction of one percent who actually wanted to see such a story. But, somehow, along the long road to the present, we have developed the resignation--indeed, the expectation--that this is somehow what constitutes 'news'.
It would be of great value and of interest to many--unless I am alone in feeling this way--to have some kind of scientific study done on how this nightly ongoing deluge of pathetic people acting in pathetic ways affects our general well-being. What, exactly, might be the relationship to this constant stream of negativity (and the hopelessness it unavoidably alludes to), to the sharp rise in prescriptions for anti-depressants?
Most people are vaguely aware that the use of antidepressants has skyrocketed in this country. In the last period for which statistics are available--2005--use had risen 48%. Over 118 million scripts were written in another recent year. One source indicates that approximately TEN PERCENT of all men and women are using prescription antidepressants. And, that is discounting the people who are using non-prescription approaches, such as St. John's Wort. And, as if that weren't troubling by itself, there is an ever steeper rise in the prescription of antidepressants for CHILDREN. Apparently, our kids are looking around at this society and it is depressing to them too.
I don't think it is a stretch to say that we are rapidly becoming a nation of depressed people, or more properly we WOULD be depressed if we weren't so drugged-up. The evidence all seems to point to this fact. And, for us to be watching news stories that simply relate an endless stream of people acting badly, just seems to be one more brick on an already over-loaded cart. One medical source indicated that he feels it is a wonderful thing that so many people are availing themselves of the help that is out there. HOLY COW, BATMAN!!! What he's really saying, is that if we all just take enough 'happy pills' everything will be okay.
This makes me want to write a novel that I have imagined for years: a small town in E. Nowhere has a family doctor who eventually has the entire town on happy meds. It becomes like a dream-town, where all the people are happy...sort of. They are also not really alive, just kind of cruising in a state of drug induced pseudo-euphoria. And, it all goes downhill when a stranger moves to town and sees what has happened. The struggle is to deal with life on a 'reality' basis, instead of just medicating it all away.
But, my real point here is this: Why do the news reporting media have to remain stuck in the notion that it is their sworn duty to tell us every little sick and sad story that comes their way? Why do they think we need to know, that we benefit, or that WE EVEN CARE?