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Friday, February 26, 2010

Nightly News

Do you watch the evening news? I do, almost every night. Mostly I watch it for the weather forecast (which is often not accurate). But I've noticed something too. I seem to watch the news with an expectation.

What could one expect from the evening news program on local television? Typically I expect to be updated on world affairs that matter. I expect to be told what is relevant, and informed about that which is relevant.

I know, you're probably thinking, "So what is the definition of relevant?" That is a very good question. My on-line dictionary ( says that it is "bearing on or pertains to the matter in hand, pertinent." It further says that relevant is "applicable, suitable or fitting."

So what are these things that would be relevant, which one could reasonably expect to be on the local evening news? I should think they would have to do with welfare, security, society. Somehow our news editors have divided things up into just a handful of categories. Those are weather, national government, state government, major international affairs of war, sports and weather. Are those the things that are most pertinent to life?

Even if we agreed on categories for relevance, would we then have to decide how to allocate our time? In other words, could we expect the news program to spend the most time on the most relevant subjects? Call me old-fashioned, but I believe we should be able to have such an expectation. Why? Simply because it would make sense.

So it is that I sit down to watch the evening news and often end up wondering why I did. One night last week was a classic example. They spent time on weather and sports of course. I think those are the things they spent the most time on. Then they talked about a lost dog, injections for fuller lips, Paris Hilton's latest adventures, and spent some time talking and joking among themselves. I thought, "If this is the news, the world is terribly irrelevant!"

I've tried to watch more global news programs. BBC World, CNN and others seem to have pretty good programming. When I travel internationally, I often see CNN being broadcast - even though it has no coverage of the areas where people are watching it. In some (former British Empire) countries, it's common to see the BBC too. I like that better. Their coverage seems to be most global. They spend little time on sports or weather, and I've never heard them talk about Paris Hilton.

Do the British have a better comprehension of what relevance means? Or do the Americans just not agree that news should be relevant? The Bible tells us that we should not worry about tomorrow --- and that we should let tomorrow worry about itself. I begin to wonder then if a Christian should have different expectations when we watch the local news. And if we should, how would our expectations look as compared to those of non-Christians?

Maybe I'm a cynic. But for now, I think I'll hang on to my expectations that the local evening news be relevant. Unfortunately, it also seems that for now I'm going to continue to be disappointed!

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