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Thursday, July 10, 2014

Bad news week

Sunday, January 9, 2011

(Photo)
Joe Sullivan
After 45 years of newspapering, I now read newspapers like everyone else: mostly day-old (or older) news that is chosen mostly for its friction factor or its shock value.

Two stories making national headlines this week gave me pause. Is this the best the news media can do in providing useful information?

The first was the hubbub over the Navy officer who made what CBS News and other media repeatedly referred to as "raunchy" videos.

The then-executive officer on the USS Enterprise made the videos, presumably to entertain the thousands of enlisted personnel, a few years ago. Navy brass in the Pentagon were aware of the videos. So they promoted the maker of the "raunchy" videos and gave him command of a vessel we have been repeatedly told is "nuclear-powered." Maybe we are supposed to infer that making videos about nasty-bits on an atomic-powered floating airport is worse than making them on a three-masted frigate.

But when a newspaper learned last week that the videos had upset some of the sailors aboard the Enterprise, it decided to make a big deal of it. The national news media, caught in the dry spell between Christmas and New Year's, jumped all over it.

Three cheers and a bottle of rum to the Virginian-Pilot. As a result of its undue and untimely diligence, the Navy has had to take another look-see at the situation. The result: The offending naval officer is being relieved of his command. There goes his career.

What the Virginian-Pilot, Katie Couric and all the other national media are missing is the fact that the executive officer of the Enterprise surely is not the only Navy officer ever to do goofy things to boost morale. At least I hope not. So there must be dozens, perhaps hundreds, of Navy officers shaking in their boots, wondering when the next slow news day will bring a snoopy reporter to their door.

One more thing: Out of 5,000 or more personnel aboard the Enterprise, a few were allegedly upset by the "raunchy" videos. That means several thousand others got a kick out of them. But let's not give them any credence. We now live in a world where the sensitivities of a few outrank the feelings of most everyone else.

The other story that made me yell at the TV this week was the lame reporting about the announced intentions of the new GOP leadership in the U.S House of Representative to vote on repealing Obamacare before the president gives his State of the Union message later this month. That will send a message, the Republicans say.

It sure will.

And this is the message: We can stir up a lot of crap, but we still don't have anything to offer regarding the health care crisis in this country. We're still willing to let millions of Americans take their lumps when it comes to insurance. We're against "death panels," but it's OK if thousands of patriotic Americans die because they can't afford visits to the doctor or proper medications. Tough luck, poor people.

Where are the national news media when you need them?

Where's Katie, holding to the fire the feet of any politician trying to make self-serving political hay out of an issue that threatens to implode the U.S. economy? That's what Republicans say will happen if Obamacare isn't repealed. And it's also what will happen if it's repealed without being replaced with something better.

We need something better, all right. I would start with better reporting.

Joe Sullivan is the retired editor of the

Southeast Missourian.

R. Joe Sullivan
R. Joe Sullivan