Last night, heading down Seventh Avenue in a cab, there was a slew of news vans lining the street, hundreds of people gathered outside the entrance of Madison Square Garden, all staring up at tremendous TV screens. My first thought -- there had been some sort of tragedy. And then I realized it was shortly after 9PM and LeBron James was announcing his decision. Actually, he was announcing "The Decision" as it had been officially dubbed by the media. I'm not a basketball fan. I gave up on the Knicks years (and years) ago. And yet, even I knew the exact date and time this historic announcement would be taking place. It was next to impossible to live in New York City and not hear reporters talking about it on the radio and TV, not catch newspaper headlines, not scan magazine covers all speculating what city LeBron's basketball career would take him.
His impending decision was treated as though it were news of epic proportion. But, it wasn't news. The countless hours, endless words spent on discussion were nothing but speculation. Opinion. Expounding on rumors, subjective points of view. Wishful thinking.
Very often, too often, that's what is considered news these days. From fluff, like why Prince William hasn't proposed to Kate Middleton or who's the next down and out celebrity to rehab in public, to who's responsible for the BP disaster or what Republicans are saying about Elena Kagan -- these stories, or should I say "stories" aren't stories at all. They're filler. Facts get overwhelmed by spin. News gets trumped by gossip. Because, honestly, that's so much of what media's about these days.
For example: the lastest Bachelor debacle. First of all, it was a reality show. Or should I say (sorry, I can't help myself) "reality" show. Jake made his choice. He and Vienna broke up. And yet, the aftermath has filled numerous news cycles. He said/she said. Friends said. Acquaintances said. Innuendo. Hearsay. While I've never watched the show, basic details are at my fingertips. More news that's not news seeping into my consciousness, whether I want it to or not.
Kate Gosselin's hair styles, not to mention her fox trots were considered news worthy. So were descriptions of John Edward's sex tape. And this isn't just coverage by trashy magazines anymore. Everyone's jumped on the speculation bandwagon to a certain degree.
I don't want to know the latest Kardashian situation. I'm not interested in Tom Cruises' religious beliefs (ok, I'm occasionally interested in a road kill sort of way). And I truly don't care about anything Sarah Palin has to say. But these "news" stories have become the fabric of communication. What does that say about us as a society? And what is it doing to you, to me?
It's scary to entertain that question for more than a few seconds. But, I don't have to. I can, instead, read about Lady Gaga's sexual preferences, Kate Hudson's supposed breast implants or Droid phone domination.