No News = Breaking News

Blue_self park_2012-08-02

2014-03-15 – Two potential terrorism stories grabbed the attention of the so-called news media this week. One involved an airplane, the other involved collapsing buildings in New York. These are the things that inspire fear in us.

I don’t watch TV. But my office has a large flat screen TV in our reception area (sound off, but with closed captioning on). This past week, every time I walked through the reception area, one of these stories was on. Nothing else. And the banner always read “Breaking News.”

Now, when I say one of these stories was on, I really mean that the collapsing building story was on, until the facts of the story were learned. There was lots of fire and smoke, but when it turned out that the explosion was probably due to a gas leak—no terrorists involved—it wasn’t breaking news anymore.

The big story of the two was the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. Of course, all that was known was that the flight had disappeared, but that didn’t stop the 24-hour news networks. Lack of news is the best breaking news. No need to collect or check facts. Just make stuff up. News like this “breaks” whenever you have a moment of idle speculation. The fewer facts you have the better!

Facts destroyed the collapsing building story. Once they knew what happened, it was no longer breaking. Lack of facts sent  the airplane story soaring—so to speak.

Okay. This is nothing new. We all know that our so-called news media are not too particular about truth. But here’s a question: If the discovery of facts killed the building-collapse story and the absences of facts propelled the airliner story, then what is the difference between news and, say, fiction?

When a network brings in a panel of experts to riff on one speculative idea or another, isn’t it really improv? Isn’t it really jazz? Isn’t it really a kind of performance art that we are now calling breaking news?

Fiction with the urgency and uncertainty of the moment.

* * *

Speaking of fiction, I plan to begin work on my second novel today. The first novel Cain’s Mother-In-Law is not entirely finished. A year ago, I thought it was finished and went off to a writer’s conference to pitch it to agents. The experience got me to thinking about truth and the nature of fact versus fiction. The question comes up in a variety of places.

The truth for me today is that I have rewritten my novel Cain’s Mother-In-Law once since last year’s conference and I am waiting for one of my readers to finish her comments. I already have some input that might lead to another rewrite, but I only want to do it once so I’m waiting to hear what the second reader says. In the meantime, I’ve been thinking about the second story and want to begin getting something down on paper. I won’t tell you about it yet, but come back. I’m sure I will eventually have something to say.

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