That's Entertainment... or Is It News? Or Does It Even Matter?

Coming soon to a theater new year... and a museum, apparently...
In 1985, Neil Postman wrote what would become the epitaph for our age: Amusing Ourselves to Death.

In it he postulated that as television and video became more and more ubiquitous, everything, including news and information, would have to become 'entertaining,' simply to hold our attention.

How right he was.

This morning,The Washington Post reported that The Newseum, an "interactive museum of news and journalism," is launching a new exhibit on Anchorman.

Unlike what you might think, the exhibit is not dedicated to the likes of Walter Cronkite or Peter Jennings or Edward R. Murrow. The exhibit, apparently funded by Paramount Pictures (who are releasing the sequel just in time for the opening), will feature the Adventures of Ron Burgundy, the fictional star of the the film by the same name. (And many thanks to my friend Jack Hitt for turning me on to this one.)

The kitschy, '70s-style costumes worn by the fictional Channel 4 Evening News team of San Diego will appear alongside a re-creation of KVWN-TV anchor desk, where fans can practice their own "You stay classy" sign offs.

This is, perhaps, a bit strange for an organization, funded by The Freedom Forum, which describes itself as "a nonpartisan foundation dedicated to free press, free speech and free spirit for all people." The Newseum's self-described mission is:

"to help the public and the news media understand one another better" and to "raise public awareness of the important role of a free press in a democratic society"

I suppose that all that stuff was a bit too boring to bring out the crowds. Ron Burgundy is better.

In search of a satirical analogy I was going to write that next the Air and Space Museum at the Smithsonian, home of the Wright Brothers original plane, The Spirit of St. Louis and John Glenn's Mercury Capsule, would start to display space ships from Star Wars... but that turned out to be true! And Transformers!

We have long been sliding toward this merging of exciting entertainment as opposed to boring news and journalism and soon we will not be able to tell the difference, or even care that there is one. Are 'reality shows' 'real' or 'faked'. Who cares? And what of Afghanistan? Boring! Tornadoes? Super Storm Sandy! Exciting! Global warming? Boring!

In 1969, man first set foot on the moon. The technology to do that was so old that your microwave oven has more computer processing power than the Lunar Landing Craft. That was forty-four years ago, and no one has gone back since. How come?

It was boring.

Walking on the moon, it turns out, made for bad television. Didn't rate. Black and white. Low resolution. And frankly, not a lot happened. Star Wars and Star Trek and Transformers are MUCH more exciting. So, as a culture we made a collective decision to abandon real trips to the moon for fake trips to Tatooine. Infinitely more exciting.

And really, does it matter?

And seriously, Ron Burgundy and Steve Carrell are much more fun and exciting than the boring old First Amendment and all that confusing Iraq stuff.

Aren't they?

And they certainly help 'raise the awareness of the important role of a free press in a democratic society'... don't they?

Oh, sorry.

That was boring.