Slattery

In structure, format and perhaps intention, what is loosely referred to as “the news” or “the news of the day” has changed significantly from the days of Cronkite, Murrow, Rather, Reynolds, Jennings, and the most notable teams, McNeill-Lehrer News Hour and the Huntley-Brinkley report.

I recently asked myself a few basic questions amidst the news-glutted world we seem to be mired in, whatever our personal preferences: What is the news and who makes that decision? Who is the audience for any news story? What in every news story is to be remembered and what is insisted or encouraged to be forgotten through what the particular story highlights? What is a news story up to besides or in addition to the information it aims at deploying? Is its major intention entertainment more than it is informative?

Choose any news show with or without a panel of commentators huddled around a table of donuts; each is a particular brand of spun information; its engines of production or reproduction are powered by a certain mythology. 

By that term I mean a particular bundle of beliefs, values, feelings and even ideologies and philosophies that it sells with the same alacrity as the ads that break the news into edible bites. 

Ask this question as you watch your favorite news show: what is the mythology that filters the information that promises to in-form me? 

A few years ago, as I watched one of my favorite news/group conversation channels, I asked myself: what is this story or shaped conversation asking/insisting that I remember, that I carry around with me like a portable shoulder bag and what stories or contents for discussion asking/insisting that I forget, not notice, leave by the side of the road as irrelevant to the story I am coached to remember? 

The second question I posed to myself is not disconnected from the above. Regardless of the source of our news — magazines, newspapers, podcasts or other on-line sources, as well as one another — are we not only receiving in-form-ation, but also being re-shaped, re-formed and re-inforced by being in-formed? 

For “news” informs and shapes how we know — a particular way or via of knowing, which may be in many instances more powerful than what we know. 

And not just limited to knowledge but more and more how we are led to feel about what we know. News has become so feeling-toned in the contemporary world, that it often supersedes the information itself. 

Earlier I used the word mythology, which includes but travels way beyond stories of ancient gods and heroes. 

Myths are more than that;  indeed, they are consciousness-shaping and altering. Myths have the capacity and the power to shape our awareness through the kinds of beliefs they propose that incubate in us. 

Each news channel works off of a very precisely delineated mythology to form the what/how of our perceptions of that increasingly slippery term, reality. 

As to what we take in as news-worthy being either fallacious or valid — that depends on what mythology you care to feed most frequently and which you consciously or unconsciously choose to ignore or even defile. 

All news is sculpted, packaged and delivered both to construct a certain shaped reality while simultaneously either explicitly or overtly to debunk another version of that same news content. 

To test the above, once a week watch a news channel that you generally ignore or debunk for reasons you can easily enunciate, and see how their presentation of “the news” pushes your ways of thinking and feeling buttons. 

Then you will feel viscerally the power of myth.

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