A Telling Illustration About News Media

The news media exists to keep us current about what's happening. Typical "news" is about what goes wrong, not right. It's the accident, gaffe, celebrity stumble, moral failure, con, or calamity that happens – not on the one that doesn't happen. Otherwise, there's no story.

This was beautifully illustrated one day when a plane we had chartered for a trip to Tennessee and back on the same day started to go wrong. As we were landing back in Orlando, the pilot had a warning light that the front wheel of the aircraft had not deployed. A manual inspection revealed the landing gear was down, but he couldn't be sure it was fully locked in place.

After radio contact with the control tower, a local news helicopter picked up the story and started flying alongside us as we made final approach for landing. We could see an array of emergency vehicles and fire trucks at the end of the runway.

Everything was fine. Our landing was uneventful. So the helicopter peeled off. Why? Because we didn't crash. We were a non-event and, therefore, a non-story. They peeled off because they had to go look elsewhere for a calamity or problem to report.

In their defense, they have to roll video on what we the people find interesting. But the size of the news apparatus has grown exponentially, and sometimes it's hard to find something that's really "new." It's the same problem every business has to do with: supply and demand.

I'm sure that helicopter crew was happy we landed safely. But it left them temporarily unemployed.

The news media has a built in conflict of interest: Bad news for us is often good news for them.

It's a conundrum. Which is why we as news consumers should ask, is it worthy of my time? Is it important? Is it true? Is it salacious? Does it make me a better person to have this information?

I recently spent three weeks in Asia, and went on a news fast while there. I survived. In fact, it was a nice break.