No Longer Hostage to the Un-News

[picapp src=”b/8/1/d/TV_News_Presenter_593d.jpg?adImageId=6994925&imageId=5232732″ width=”380″ height=”383″ /]There’s a Thich Nhat Hanh parable I love:  A man goes for a walk and returns to find his shutters blown open and his important papers awhirl throughout the room.

Q: What should his reaction be?
A: Close the window first, of course. Then tidy.

In this story, the room represents our mind; and the wind, outside forces that create chaos. The lesson we are to learn is to determine which things pull us out of serenity, then shut them out of our lives for a time. At least until we possess a decent paperweight. 🙂 

It’s a simple tale, right? Yet it had a profound effect, both on me, and my choice of news sources these days.

See, I happen to believe that the term “news story” has become all-too apropriate; that journalism that would present all points of view — including the presence of common ground — doesn’t sell. As a consequence, articles are deliberately crafted to emphasize conflict. Ours has become a world of creeping infotainment, Gentle Reader, where outraged op-ed hosts like Nancy Grace and Glen Beck, usurp their more balanced peers.

That’s why I’m so dang fricking proud of my city.

The reason? The coverage and response to a hostage-taking last week.

You see, in my part of the world, it’s still rare for violence to touch the average citizen. So one would think that when nine people are held at gunpoint for an entire day, they’d have plenty of reason to vent afterward in public. And that they’d be aided in that goal by the sensationalized news coverage I’ve come to expect.

Instead, this is what I did hear:

  • a female hostage, her voice filled with compassion, as she explained the man really only wanted to be heard
  • the police spokesperson, who emphasized that their aim was to keep everyone alive, including the gunman (They succeeded. :))
  • CBC newscasters, who broadcast only on regular schedule, speaking in calm, grounded voices
  • average citizens in talk radio, indicating that the system for injured workers probably needed to be examined. They felt the hostage-taker had been pushed to the breaking point and might be emblematic of a systemic problem.
  • WCB administration, admitting they needed to look at their security, but that their procedures bred frustration and should be examined.

Not once in the past week have I heard a politician use the incident to push their agenda. Nor have I heard an indignant voice or a condemning point of view. All I can say is, “Wow! Bravo! Thank you, one and all!” Perhaps it’s because of this kind of civility that the original incident ended without injury or loss of life.

Can you imagine, peeps, if we could get the larger world to work like this? Can you imagine if real problem-solving and compassion governed our political, educational, and cultural institutions? The idea is almost more than my poor mind can comprehend. It’s akin to grasping the concept of infinity at a visceral level; or walking past a chocolate-mint candy bar without sneaking a corner.

Do any of you think this kind of honest, real discussion is possible? Have you witnessed it elsewhere? Have you given over to cynicism and watch the infotainment news shows because you know of no other option? Or like me, are you picky about where you get your information?

Also, any fellow Thich Nhat Hanh fans out there?

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12 thoughts on “No Longer Hostage to the Un-News

  1. It’s a lovely thought. I admit I’m too cynical to believe it could be done large-scale: national media has wandered so far into the thicket of sensationalism that I’m not sure they know where the exit is any more. And sensationalism pays, unfortunately.

    I love seeing things like this. It does happen at a local level, often, in my state.

  2. This “creep” into infotainment is the primary reason I exited the Journalism industry. Well, that and I don’t get shot at or threatened as much anymore 🙂

  3. Sunna, it’s good to hear that you have balanced reporting at the local level. Out of curiosity, is that from a publicly-funded source, like the CBC is here?

    Dawn, I’ve meant to ask many times why you left journalism. And yikes! You sound like you’d have some awesome stories to share — if not here, then on your own blog.

  4. I hate listening to Nancy Grace and Glen Beck. They are perfect examples of why I never went into journalism, and I;m sure Dawn could never be that person either.
    Funny, as hostage takings go, this was one of the better ones. That is weird.

  5. Donna…my career began with interviewing celebrities (I started with Brad Pitt, then Gorbachev (through a translator), then quickly downgraded to ambulance chasing and listening to the police scanner. Like in so many parts of my life right now, I’d rather write the drama than live it 🙂

  6. Donna, it did end rather well, didn’t it?

    Dawn, holy smokes! I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating: it’s a darn good thing I didn’t know your background before that first night you critiqued me! I would have been so intimidated.

    And why aren’t you linking your comments to your blog, my dear? I can guarantee you that the above comment would make some people curious and follow you there.

    Lastly, did you get to meet Brad Pitt in person? Huh? Huh?

  7. Since you asked…

    Donna – tasty indeed, but also a really amazing guy.

    Hope101…yep. I did meet him. In my J-school days, Brad was filming Legends of the Fall and I was editor of a small entertainment paper. They sent me for a half hour interview – which ended in a six hour conversation.

    He took me on a tour of the set, crammed me into a small pick-up truck with Aidan Quinn and Anthony Hopkins, and allowed me to taste one of the muffins the set chef whipped up for him DAILY.

    He told me later that the reason he spent more time with me was because my first question was: What should I not ask? What he didn’t want to talk about was his looks (though I’ll be damned if I didn’t want to) – and though I could have sold my story for a lot more to a tabloid, I think, he’d earned enough of my respect that I ended up with an article about his side passion at the time – rock climbing.

    Maybe someday I’ll tell you about the scar on my hand from Sebastian Bach (If you don’t know who that is, I’m pretty sure Donna will…no laughing girl) or the guy who pressed a shot gun to my head because I threatened to expose his dirty laundry – no really, he had his dirty laundry hanging all over his yard and the Glendon town council had had enough. Scary stuff, darling.

    See…your blog just has this way of making me talk. Must be your absolute skill as a writer <3

  8. Ha! Or my absolute skill as a listener. 🙂 Either way, thanks for sharing these stories.

    So…crammed in a pick-up with Brad Pitt, Aidan Quinn and Anthony Hopkins, huh? Now in the spirit of sharing, what have I got that can compare with that?……………………………………………………………………………………thinking………………………………..Okay. I give up. I have to go produce some pages for these unreasonable, tyrannic critique partners I happen to possess. 😉

  9. Your story gives me hope, Hope–hey, didn’t see that one coming–but I dunno. Sad to say, I’m one of those who rarely watches the news anymore, just because I can practically see the agenda seething underneath the seemingly forthright and concerned broadcast. I mean, news used to be taken as fact. Now? Not so much.

    As someone with a more holistic view than most, I’m probably uber-sensitive to this, but still. Why must the news focus on the one horrible case of something going wrong in a million, instead of how many times something went right?

    I think we’re a long way from balanced journalism, sad to say. But thanks for sharing your story! 🙂

  10. The imbalance between the positive and negative choices of which stories are run, frustrate me too, houndrat. For my own mental health I have learned to skim headlines and read deeper only for the issues I feel I can influence. I also try to vote with my wallet, and only purchase or watch the programs that make an effort at balance.

    Glad if I lightened your load even the slightest.

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