Unprompted: What Qualifies As News These Days? 

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I’m confused. The pundits said this event would have a significant impact on the presidential race in 2015. They were pontificating, of course. That’s how they earn their living.

It was 7 a.m., late September 2014. On this particular morning I flipped the channel to ABC for a quick look at the world. Normally I watch NBC but I get tired of watching Al Roker giggle, so I sometimes check the other networks. Of course they have gigglers too, but they’re not as proficient as Al. CBS is less into giggling and often I find its morning news more suitable. But on this morning they were all in the no-news mode.

The lead story on ABC was the birth of Chelsea Clinton’s baby. Chelsea Clinton’s what?! Yes, Mrs. Mezvinsky had a baby. Mrs. Who? Mezvinsky. That’s Chelsea’s last name now by virtue of her marriage to a guy named Marc Mezvinsky. We know that because Chelsea was the president’s daughter who quietly grew up at the White House while her father was doing a pretty good job as president but doing something else in his office down the hall. That’s another story but every time the name Clinton comes to mind I think of it. You do too, admit it.

Chelsea had a baby and we were all happy for her except in my mind it shouldn’t have been the lead story on the national news. What happened to ISIS? Quickly I switched to the other networks. My God! They’re talking about Chelsea Mezvinsky’s baby too.

The birth of a baby is joyful news, especially if it’s a wanted baby. I can see why they go crazy in England when a new heir to the throne comes along, especially considering that some day this baby will become king, even though the king of England does absolutely nothing.

Back to my subject. Chelsea had a baby and the major news reporting organizations of the world suddenly became “Inside Edition.” CNN, on the other hand, when it finally realized that Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 was gone forever and we had absolutely nothing in the news today to report, kept reporting it … over and over. CNN called in a host of aviation experts to tell us they didn’t know anything.

But Chelsea’s baby came to the rescue. The networks had something new to talk about. Something of absolutely no national consequence, but it was new and the vast television audience wanted to hear about it.

In the next day or so reporters feeling guilty about the overkill on Chelsea’s bundle of joy began to seek significance to attach thereto. How would this affect the presidential race, they wondered — specifically, Hillary’s intention to seek the presidency. She was a grandmother now. Would she still run? Ah-ha! Chelsea’s baby finds a place in legitimate news.

Oh come on now. The day before the hallowed baby was born Hillary was a candidate and knew perfectly well that her daughter was pregnant. Why wasn’t it news then? Did the actual birth change the course of American history?

And then this: On Oct. 6, 2014, a headline on the front page of Richmond’s main newspaper said, “I’m not going to shy away from leadership opportunities.” A trite, vague comment at best — but who said it?

Russell Wilson, a football player who happens to play for the Seattle Seahawks but came from Richmond. Quickly I tossed aside the morning paper, concluding that there was no news to report. Then I gave it a second look. In the Metro section there was a report of a 12-year-old boy shot in Gilpin Court. The child was riding his bicycle at 4 in the afternoon when he was hit. Fortunately the wound wasn’t threatening and he survived.

But what if he’d been killed? Would that be important enough to qualify as news? Or would he need to be a prominent athlete to make the real news? The article referred to the victim several times as “the boy.”

I guess he didn’t have a name. S

Gene Cox is an author and inventor who recently retired from a 35-year career as a television anchor in Richmond. Connect with him at letters@styleweekly.com, or on Twitter at @genecoxrva.



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