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Friday, June 21, 2024

There has been a disturbing trend toward fluffy, feel-good stories in the mainstream media for some time now. In the wake of President-elect Barack Obama's thrilling victory in the general election, this trend became even more pronounced than usual.

The new president is going to have more on his plate on his first day in office than any commander in chief in recent memory - there are two wars and an economic crisis that is being compared to another Great Depression.

Obama is building a team dedicated to change and I, in the flush of his victory, was eager to keep up with the news reports on what he was doing. Then, one day, it started. And my faith in mainstream news plummeted as sharply as the stock market.

During his acceptance speech, Obama had promised his daughters, Sasha and Malia, that he would get them a new puppy to join them in their new home. What transpired could be described as nothing less than the media pouncing on the story with extreme ferocity.

News articles flooded onto Google, bringing with them the questions deemed worth reporting. What breed of dog will it be? Will it be a rescue dog or will it come from a breeder? Malia is allergic - this means the dog has to be hypoallergenic!

Somewhere, Edward R. Murrow needed a drink.

CNN even went so far as to run a poll where the readers could take their pick about what sort of dog the president-elect should choose. This happened during a time in which Obama appointed his former nemesis Sen. Hillary Clinton to the secretary of state post, the recession worsened and Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich gave America a dose of Chicago politics in his bid to sell Obama's Senate seat.

Then - miraculously - the story faded into the background, even if it wasn't entirely forgotten. I was able to breathe again. Surely such media lunacy was an anomaly.

Sadly, with a suddenness of the Pokemon craze, a new wave was upon us. The coverage of Sasha and Malia Obama's adventures in academics began. The questions took a familiar tone. Which school will the girls be sent to? What kind of security detail will they get?

There was even my favorite report on a most vital matter: the complete school lunch menu that the girls will choose from!

Will it be tacos or mystery meat?

And so I'm reliving a nightmare. I find myself breaking into tears whenever I think of H.L. Mencken - even a sensationalist "reporter" like Geraldo Rivera would offer better coverage than what's been out there recently.

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Don't misunderstand. Fluff stories are not necessarily harmful, and it isn't as if no attention is being paid to the more important news items that I've mentioned. But with so much of importance going on, how can a moment be spared to worry about the First Dog or school lunches?

The mainstream media are suffering from a credibility gap these days. They have not, in my view, earned forgiveness for the softball questions they lobbed at Bush for eight years or the laissez-faire attitude they took toward the "intelligence" that was used as the basis for invading Iraq.

This is, as so many politicians have been heard arguing lately, an important time in American history.

Simply put, soft news coverage isn't going to cut it. The mainstream media need to get back to writing news for adults. We should be answering all of the soft news questions that have been given ink during these glory days of hack journalism with a question of our own: Who cares?

Eric Chianese is an English junior.

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