Your hair is burning

Regional commentary by Jeff Burgar

A fellow once told me, “We’re sure missing out on all kinds of great news stories. Since I started working at the hospital, it’s just unbelievable I’m learning how much is happening.”

Well, what newspaper doesn’t love some good stories. Expansion at the hospital? Some new local doctors? New equipment? Maybe knocking down walls and building room for new services?

“Oh heck no,” said my friend. “It’s all the happenings in town. It’s all talked about at the hospital. Everything!” To my quizzical look, he just raised his eyebrows. “Everything!” he repeated, drawing out the word, trying to give it more meaning than what he started with.

What followed was a synopsis of who was sleeping with whom. Who was pregnant by the wrong father. Who was sick and didn’t want the family to know. Who was sick and didn’t want the business partner to know. Who was sick and was going to sell their house, but didn’t want anybody to know in case a buyer tried to buy the house for cheap.

In short, a whole litany of what many people call “news,” Except in the reporting business, we choose to call it “gossip.” Unless of course, we are a celebrity magazine that specializes in such. With a caveat. For them, it doesn’t have to be true.

I was reminded of all this following the news reports of American president Donald Trump not wearing a mask sometimes. “News reporting” in American has degenerated hugely, especially the past five or six years, ever since Trump was elected. And yet even more so as Google and Facebook, having bought up most advertising agencies, now control upwards of 80 per cent of advertising buys. So of course, they spend advertising dollars on their own companies, or direct the ads to their business partners, even while taking half or more of the ad dollars spent.

“Trudeau’s hair on fire!” will attract way more viewers and readers than another “MMIW” walk for justice. With the entire news industry struggling, is it any wonder so many outlets are trying to outdo each other with “exciting” news?

And, from the days of ancient history, sitting around the cooking fire, standing around the water pump, to today’s coffee shop and water cooler, most of us are looking for tidbits of whatever will get us through the day. Even if, sometimes, someone is hurt when the wrong word, or an offhand comment about a person’s character, multiplies its way around town.

The bad news is, it isn’t just hospitals breeding germs and gossip. The good news is, when the time comes Trump or Trudeau’s hair really is on fire, most of us will hardly care. Except maybe to wonder, “For heaven’s sake. What will they come up with next?” So, if you are good at crazy, there are jobs waiting for you out there. And not disrespecting the hardworking and non-story telling workers already there, perhaps in a hospital near you.

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