Gary Kirkpatrick runs Ned’s Bar in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. If you stopped in for a cold one recently, Gary would have gladly given you the rundown of all things happening in that part of the Sooner State. As home to the Cherokee nation, and sitting on the boundary of the wild and scenic Ozark Mountains, Tahlequah is never dull. With so much going on around him, Gary had lots to say.
But there was one thing he didn’t mention: the weather. Which, come to think of it, was amazing. Not just because he was one of the few who didn’t get sucked into the nauseating, 24/7 news coverage of the "nation’s heat wave," but because, if anyone is entitled to blabber on about the summer temperatures, it’s folks like Gary Kirkpatrick.
You see, in Gary’s neck of the woods, it wasn’t 95 degrees for just a few days like on the East Coast, spiking past 100 for several hours (with the media hyping a "heat index" of 105; whatever the hell a heat index is). It was a tad hotter.
As in, over 100 (real) degrees — for over 30 straight days. That’s a solid month of topping the century mark. And was there complaining? Few and far between.
Maybe that’s because many Midwesterners still exhibit the salt-of-the-earth, tough-as-nails pioneering spirit that built the nation. And maybe it’s because East Coasters are getting increasingly soft.
But one thing is certain: the media vastly over-sensationalized the story, to the point where the heatwave was the only topic of conversation for millions of Americans.
Their scare tactics petrified seniors, made parents of young children frantic, and otherwise consumed a nation, forsaking many other far more important stories.
The media’s abdication of all things related to doing its job has it fast approaching the esteem level held for lawyers, politicians and the cockroach — with the cockroach being held in higher regard, of course.
You could take any TV segment from a decade ago about summer heat and air it today — and no one would know the difference. It is, quite literally, the exact same storyline with the exact same verbage. The only thing different is that the hype factor has increased exponentially.
And it’s not just that the stories are mundane, but they’re produced in a way that would offend a third-grader’s intelligence. That’s not to suggest that they should appeal only to Ph.D’s, but come on… the American people are not that stupid. They don’t require the media’s condescending, dumbed-down approach, but in fact deserve solid and relevant reporting.
"Place the metal fittings of the seatbelt into the other, and tighten by pulling on the loose end of the strap." "Pour shampoo into wet hair. Lather. Rinse." "When it’s hot, drink plenty of liquids, don’t exert yourself outside, and seek air conditioning."
The airlines and shampoo companies have those ridiculous instructions for liability reasons, since trial lawyers (see "cockroach" category, above) sue for every reason, even inconceivable ones.
So what’s the media’s excuse? Let’s be honest. If folks don’t know that they should avoid excessive heat, drink water, and not resurrect a jogging regimen after 20 years (and 80 pounds ago) when the mercury hits 95, then nothing the media tells them will make a bit of difference. Idiots will be idiots. But the vast majority of people have common sense, so the ridiculous stories airing nonstop serve no purpose.
And really, what do we expect? It’s July in America. It gets hot. Philadelphia, Washington, and New York routinely see temps in the mid to upper 90s during this time.
How is that news? The fact it breaks a one-day record from a whopping five years ago is newsworthy? And when it breaks 100, you’d think it was the end of the world. Is there any real discernable difference between 96 and 100 anyway? Or 93 with high humidity versus 100 without it?
So extensive was the media’s coverage that it took significant channel surfing to find any details on the horrific massacre in Norway. In fact, just a day after the shooting that left scores of children dead and a government building in shambles, a national network dedicated less than one minute to the story. And that was only after at least 12 minutes of coverage dedicated solely to the heat.
Is it any wonder why so many around the world view America disdainfully? Here we have a major terror attack against a close ally (Norway has a military contingent in Afghanistan, and has been threatened by al-Queda in the past), and the identity of the perpetrator(s) and possible connections to other terrorists had not been fully determined. Yet we give those tragic events nary any coverage, instead incessantly rolling the same tape on something that happens every year — a hot spell during a typical American summer.
Compare that to the outpouring of support from overseas and their in-depth coverage of hurricanes hitting America, the Alabama tornadoes, our flooding river — and terror attacks, including the Oklahoma City bombing, to which many experts likened the Norway attack.
The media has reinforced what so many overseas already think: Americans are arrogant and self-absorbed, caring not about the troubles of others. And that’s the biggest tragedy, because the reality is so very different.
The American people, as individuals, and their government (to a fault) comprise the most generous nation the world has ever known. Money, logistics, care packages, and yes, their prayers, are immediately sent around the globe whenever a crisis erupts, with no expectation of payback. We do this not for calculated future gain, but, trite as
it sounds, because it’s simply the right thing to do.
Unfortunately, the media overshadows the true American spirit by ignoring the gripping stories of the day in favor of recycled garbage that focuses on 1) things we already know, and 2) things we cannot change.
In the same way that we were treated to the Year of the Shark several summers ago (when shark attacks were actually down), this has become the Summer of Record Heat.
Both are codespeak for media laziness.
The biggest irony is that the media hasn’t changed its ways, content to sensationalize the mundane while ignoring the real stories (READ: the ones which require an honest day’s work), yet its ratings continue to plummet. Call me crazy, but there might be a correlation there.
Sounds like a great story. Just don’t expect to see it on TV — or this column in many papers.
Chris Friend is an independent columnist, television commentator, and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau, www.FreindlyFireZone.com. Readers of his column, "Freindly Fire," hail from six continents, thirty countries and all fifty states. His work has been referenced in numerous publications including The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, foreign newspapers, and in Dick Morris’ recent bestseller "Catastrophe." Freind, whose column appears regularly in Philadelphia Magazine and nationally in Newsmax, also serves as a frequent guest commentator on talk radio and state/national television, most notably on FOX Philadelphia. He can be reached at [email protected].