News and Tribune

January 25, 2013

NASH: Is any of this really news?

Local columnist

— Lately there has been some kind of change in what has been perceived and what we see as news. I don’t know when it started, but now when you turn on a show that supposedly will tell you what is going on in the world, you are bombarded by things that seem like they shouldn’t be considered important to anybody. Day after day you turn on the television or click on the Internet and you are instantly inundated with the mundane hour after hour.

Previously for something to be considered news it had to be sensational and newsworthy. But in recent years that trend has changed. I personally believe that all of this is being driven by what is popular on social media. It seems what people are reading about or clicking on is driving what is news and it is increasingly becoming popular to watch as people fall from the pedestal that we have built for them and waited for them to fall from.

Last week cyclist Lance Armstrong was part of a much-anticipated interview with Oprah Winfrey concerning his use of performance-enhancing drugs in his quest for seven Tour de France titles. In two 90-minute programs, he came clean on nearly two decades of misdeeds. Most people have seemed willing to forgive him for his blood doping and drug use, with the “everybody was doing it” defense, but few people have been willing to overlook the lying about it for all these years.

I am not going to defend what Lance Armstrong did in any way. I would like to point out that I watched the first night of the Oprah interview and very little was said about the LIVESTRONG foundation that he founded and the fact that he has raised more than half a billion dollars for cancer research. While this doesn’t justify what he did, maybe it should be taken into consideration when we judge him in hindsight.

It could have been worse for Lance Armstrong last week if not for the hoax that may or may not have been perpetrated on Notre Dame football player Manti Te’o. This Heisman Trophy finalist was in love with a girlfriend that he had never met and spent hours talking on the phone, before her “death,” to someone who didn’t exist. I am sure that things like this happen to normal, average, everyday people just about every day, but if you can run real fast and tackle the guy carrying the ball, then it is front page news.

Then we come to the news of this week. One of the most historic days of the entire year happened this past Monday. It was the second Inauguration of Barack Obama as President of the United States. The constitution requires transfer of power in a democratic society, which fell this year on the national holiday celebrating the life of slain civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., was overshadowed in some places by other “news.” 

Some people have questioned whether or not during the singing of the national anthem, recording artist Beyonce sang live or lip synced. There have been reports that because of her inability to schedule enough practice time with the Marine Corp Band, she lip synched the “Star Spangled Banner” for the inauguration. While it is our national anthem, many singers have complained about the complexities of singing it live.  It was also being sung outdoors in front of a crowd that was estimated at nearly one million people in the freezing cold. Four years ago, cellist Yo Yo Ma supposedly did the same thing because of the extreme cold.

After the swearing-in ceremony of the president, during the congressional luncheon, the president and speaker of the house were sharing what has been described as a lighthearted exchange. Sitting between the two men, first lady Michelle Obama was filmed rolling her eyes at something that was said. There is no audio of the conversation and no one has come forward to say what she was reacting to at the time. Almost immediately the Internet was abuzz with why she would be so disrespectful. My question is, why is this news?

In a recent column I made the comment in reference to the Kim Kardashian and Kanye West baby by saying, “Hopefully this ‘story’ will get the attention it deserves.” One of my long-time readers thought there was a possibility that I was serious when I said it. By putting the word “story” in quotation marks I was hoping that people would understand what I meant. I would also like to say if you plan to jump on me over the content of this or any other column that appears on this page in the News and Tribune, read the banner at the top of this page. This is not a page for news, it is a page for opinions.

Over the last several years news outlets have been giving actual news the back seat to whatever may be “trending.” If people are talking about it on Facebook or Twitter or any other social media it must be what is most important for us to know. I just wish that if you want to be known as a news outlet, then maybe you should be required to stick to the news.

— Matthew Nash can be reached at