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News and newsmaking

By Bradford J. Senning
Arizona Daily Wildcat
April 29, 1999
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Arizona Daily Wildcat

I have nothing to write about this week.

All the significant news stories appear on pages one and nine while I sit in the middle attentive, but removed, doing the journalist's equivalent of looking to and fro at a tennis match. For once I feel comfortable not challenging myself to write an opinion. Once in a while not having an opinion is an opinion in itself.

Lots of news lately. Lots of reporters rubbing their own elbows for picking up the latest Students Against Sweatshops or Columbine High School dirt. Recent news says 20 percent of UA students surveyed had no idea there is an ongoing sit-in protest in President Likins' office. It must be a fairly unimportant protest then. Twenty percent. Indeed, the Wildcat reports "Students show little interest in sit-in." News also has it that 20 percent of my sock content is polyester. That means the 80 percent cotton content should be ignored. The news is polyester: 20 percent!

In other news, Trenchcoat Mafia member Dylan Klebold intended to live in a UA dorm. Wildcat reporter David Cieslak asks the biting question, did Residence Life receive Klebold's check? Cieslak reports Residence Life Director James Van Arsdel's response is something like, "huh?" Cieslak fails to reveal receiving Klebold's check makes Van Arsdel a witness of nada or an accessory to ice cream. Cieslak should also report accepting students like Klebold could mitigate residence hall overcrowding.

The media's intensive search for new angles is making me wish to be in that 20 percent who don't know, who have a polyester aplomb. I would rather be like Van Arsdel, who may not care. I sympathize with a letter to the editor from members of an English 418 class. The class complained about the disruption and drama surrounding the Women and Literature course because of recent press coverage. English 418 has been exploited by the press for its central role in the proposed change in the UA course description policy. But the class forgets that the press hardly cares about them anymore. The press cares about impact, the news inflected. The news isn't the news so much as a "news effect," like special effects in the movies. Course content issues. Homophobia. Sexually explicit material. There is no English 418 anymore, only a pyrotechnic fall-out.

Angles, that's the news. The corners instead of the fronts. Details. Sweeping generalizations. Every day since the Columbine High School murders there have been new angles. National news and National Public Radio report excerpts from the web site and the diary. The gunmen's plan included crashing a hijacked plane into New York City. Teenage gunmen Klebold and Harris issue from a movie culture desensitized to violence and human frailty. Grade-schools report new curricula aimed at teaching children what facial expressions mean in order to create sensitivity.

Reporters search for opinions and deep-throat information. Woodward and Bernstein, reporters for The Washington Post in the 70s, earned fame by uncovering President Nixon's secret bugging of Democratic offices in the Watergate building, Washington D.C. Since then, newsmen have sought fame instead of news. Making niggling details controversial through hair-splitting connections and acrobatic headlines. Reports whirl on a liquid foundation. Reporters cram info and effect into a narrow slot or small box and whisper, "I thrill you, I thrill you." The news entices you and brandishes its buxom details but is a dry fuck.

Reporters search for the news equivalent of orgasms. But after a semester of only wet dreams, I've realized there's nothing to lose sleep over. The most telling news in recent days was Assistant City Editor and future Editor-in-Chief David Cieslak's Wildcat "Walk on the Wild Side" article. Cieslak tells about a newsroom full of orgiastic derring-do, scoring points for itself based on sexual exploits and raging alcoholism. The "Corruption Test" floating around the newsroom indexes the sensual and sexual impulses that drive newsmaking and guide its indiscretion.

Sex is great, but for some of us it gets tiresome to watch. Overstimulated, some people are turning off their TVs and closing the paper. It's too much artifice, too much pushing of buttons. Not enough satiety. So take a week off. Wash your body off. And listen to the sound of the world snapping into place.