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News media, especially television, has long been critiqued for putting too much emphasis on sensationalism, hence the adage, “If it bleeds, it leads.” Toyota’s accelerator problem and ex-Congressman Massa’s “snorkeling” reputation prove the adage is alive.

Yes, many Toyota owners have reason for concern, and the media is treating the Toyota accelerator issue, incident by incident, as if the very act of driving a car is a major risk in modern life. Yet, less than 2% of auto accidents are equipment related, while 95% are driver caused. Sure, we hear about the dangers of texting while driving, but with nowhere near the continuing cacophony of media blasting on Toyota’s problems. Drunk driving gets some attention, but nothing equal to an annual U.S. death toll that exceeds total deaths to date in Iraq by five times.

Talking about Massa, the media seem determined to delve into every aspect of his personality quirks and sexual dallying, while they ignored all but the rant when retiring Congressman Kennedy complained on the floor of Congress over the media’s indifference to the Congress’s first debate since 2001 on whether to stay in Afghanistan. The upshot of the 3-hour debate was a vote of 356-65 to stay in Afganistan. I had to dig out that info on the internet, because the media didn’t think it was worth covering a Congressional debate related to a war that has cost a thousand lives and cost hundreds of billions of dollars, to date. Sure, you can watch Congress debate on C-Span, but who’s watching. The old networks and cable meanwhile target their infotainment empires on relatively minor, yet sensational issues while “Rome burns,” in relation to vastly more important issues.

Maybe our media’s values are no more distorted than those of some Americans, but their oversight of the real issues is grossly distorted and irresponsible. Much of the news media no longer deserves the protections offered them under the Constitution. That’s a level of condemnation they should think about. Many news people should be embarrassed by their fellow “professionals.”

March 2010

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