The Media's Irresponsible Heat Wave Coverage

Thursday, 28 Jul 2011 03:19 PM

By Chris Freind

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Gary Kirkpatrick runs Ned’s Bar in Tahlequah, Okla. If you stopped in for a cold one, Gary would have gladly given you the rundown of all things happening in that part of the Sooner State.

As home to the Cherokee nation, and sitting on the boundary of the scenic Ozark Mountains, Tahlequah is never dull. With so much going on, Gary had lots to say.

But he didn’t talk about the weather. Which was amazing, not just because he was one of the few who didn’t get sucked into the nauseating, 24/7 news coverage of the “nation’s heat wave,” but because, if anyone is entitled to blabber on about the summer temperatures, it’s folks like Gary.

You see, in Oklahoma, it wasn’t 95 degrees for just a few days like on the East Coast, spiking past 100 for several hours (with the media hyping a “heat index” of 105, whatever the hell a heat index is).

It was over 100 degrees — for more than 30 straight days. That’s a month of topping the century mark. Yet complainers were few and far between.

Maybe that’s because many midwesterners still exhibit the salt-of-the-earth pioneering spirit that built the nation. And maybe it’s because East Coasters are getting soft.

But one thing is certain: the media vastly oversensationalized the story, with the heat wave seemingly the only topic of conversation. Their scare tactics petrified seniors, made parents frantic, and consumed a nation, forsaking far more important stories.

The media’s abdication of all things related to doing its job has it approaching the esteem level held for lawyers, politicians, and the cockroach.

You could take any TV segment from a decade ago about summer heat and air it today, the only difference being the exponentially increased hype factor.

Worse, the stories are produced in a way that would offend a 3rd-grader’s intelligence. The American people are not stupid. They don’t require the media’s condescending, dumbed-down approach, but deserve solid and relevant reporting.

“Place the metal fittings of the seatbelt into each other, and tighten by pulling the strap.” “Pour shampoo into wet hair. Lather. Rinse.” “When it’s hot, drink liquids and seek air conditioning.”

Really?

The airlines and shampoo companies have ridiculous instructions for liability reasons, since trial lawyers (see “cockroach” category above) sue for every reason.

So what’s the media’s excuse? If folks don’t know that they should not start jogging again after 20 years (and 80 pounds ago) when the mercury hits 95, nothing the media tells them will make a difference. But the majority of people have common sense, so the ridiculous stories serve no purpose.

And what do we expect? It’s July in America. It gets hot. How is that news? When it breaks 100, you’d think it was the end of the world. And is there any difference between 96 and 100 anyway?

It took significant channel surfing to find details on the massacre in Norway. In fact, after the shooting which left scores of children dead and a government building in shambles, a national network dedicated less than one minute to the story. And that was only after 12 minutes of coverage dedicated solely to the heat.

Is it any wonder why Americans are viewed disdainfully? Here we had a major terror attack against an ally, with the identity of the perpetrator(s) and connections to other terrorists not fully determined.

Yet we gave those tragic events nary any coverage, instead rolling the same tape of a hot spell during a typical American summer.

Compare that to the in-depth overseas media coverage of hurricanes, the Alabama tornadoes, our flooding rivers — and terror attacks, including the Oklahoma City bombing, to which many experts likened to the Norway attack.

The media have reinforced what many foreigners already think: Americans are arrogant and self-absorbed, caring nothing about the troubles of others. And that’s the biggest tragedy, because reality is so very different.

The American people and their government comprise the most generous nation the world has ever known. Money, logistics, care packages, and yes, their prayers, are immediately sent around the globe whenever a crisis erupts, with no expectation of payback.

We do this not for calculated gain, but because it’s the right thing to do.

Unfortunately, the media overshadow the true American spirit by ignoring the gripping stories of the day in favor of recycled garbage.

In the same way that we were treated to the Year of the Shark several summers ago (when attacks were actually down), this has become the Summer of Record Heat. Both are codespeak for media laziness.

The biggest irony is that the media haven’t changed, content to sensationalize the mundane while ignoring the real stories (which require an honest day’s work), yet its ratings continue to plummet.

Call me crazy, but there might be a correlation there.

Sounds like a great story. Just don’t expect to see it on TV.

Chris Freind is an independent columnist, television commentator, and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau, www.FreindlyFireZone.com. He can be reached at CF@FreindlyFireZone.com.










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