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January 30, 2014 - Stephen Browne
I have a couple of questions.
How many people think Justin Bieber is a silly little punk with too much money and too little sense?
Now has anybody noticed there's two revolutions, a possible terrorist attack and a slow motion genocide going on in the world?
OK, you've probably heard about Ukraine. Massive demonstrations that have something to do with some oppressive laws against free expression, and a pot stirred by Russia which wants Ukraine back. It does get covered in the media, but not to the extent Justin Bieber does.
I can't get holy about this, I pay as much attention as I do to Ukraine because I have friends there and because I used to live next door.
I've contacted my friends on Facebook and their answers are cryptic enough to worry me.
Google "Ukraine" and you at least get articles in the New York Times. Google "Thailand" and you get the Christian Science Monitor and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
I only know about Thailand because there is a self-funded freelance journalist I admire (Michael Yon) posting daily updates on Facebook.
Now how about South Africa?
Everybody knows everything is just swell in South Africa since the bad old apartheid regime relinquished power. Well, like a lot of things everybody knows, it ain't so.
White farmers in South Africa are being attacked and murdered at a rate that would be alarming any other place in the world. It's not one of the fashionable causes so it gets very little attention. I suspect it won't until we have a refugee crisis like Rwanda on our hands.
And how about the Winter Olympics? Anybody aware the Russians are frantically looking for some very dodgy people in Sochii? I've got an awful suspicion either something terrible is going to happen there, or a near-miss.
Remember Munich, 1972? Worse.
They'll have security of course, but in Munich the Black Septembrists wanted specifically to take Israelis hostage. My guess is the Chechen jihadists just want to humiliate Russia, so they'll kill as many of anybody at all as they can without discrimination. That makes their job a lot easier, and security's job a lot harder.
Now go over to the websites of any of the major networks. Currently at the top is the plight of Atlanta and how Southerners can't handle a couple inches of snow. OK, that's at least about something of real importance to people in Georgia, and a number of us who have friends or relatives there.
Scroll down a little and you'll find Justin Bieber, and how he's tested positive for pot and Xanax, how he's up on assault charges and how did this happen to that kid?
But at present, nothing on the short list above.
But how important are those things to us in any realistic sense?
Thailand? I'd say not very, though I wish them well.
Ukraine? It's important in the long run whether they return to Russia's orbit or integrate with Europe. In the short run not so much.
South Africa might explode on the world scene and leave us facing a choice watching a lot of people die - or taking in huge numbers of refugees.
Sochii? I have a very bad feeling that could be important very soon.
Now why am I hand-wringing about the state of the news media?
Because, and write this off as sour grapes if you like, at our newspaper and many others like it we do a much better job. We deliver local news that's important and relevant to you. And when we print AP pieces - it's not generally about Justin Bieber and that ilk unless it's a really slow news day.
I think we're doing a pretty good job locally, and it irritates me to think of better-paid journalists at higher-circulation news outlets devoting so much time to things of so little importance.
OK, those grapes are pretty sour. Still true though.
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