Just a couple weeks ago, I was sitting in a hotel room in Nashville reading the local daily.
On the front page appeared a story about how Kid Rock had been arrested for getting into a bar brawl. Inside that same paper, I think on about page A9, was a story about how it has all but been confirmed that life did exist on Mars and maybe still does today. The article explained how the oceans of Mars likely went underground and still exist, producing methane gas, one of the by products of life.
As a newspaper editor, it galls me no end how some in my profession treat certain stories. Sure, the fact mega-nerd Kid Rock was arrested is probably a big deal in Nashville, Music City, USA. But almost certain proof of life beyond our planet? I often wonder where the priorities of editors and the public lie. I'm sure the rationale of the editor was determining what would sell the newspaper. I do it every day.
Yet somewhere inside these folks, they just aren't thinking. The possible confirmation of life on another planet is an enormously important and huge story all around the world. That Kid Rock was arrested is about as shocking as learning there is corruption in government. I guess I should be happy that the inside pages editor decided the Mars story should get some ink.
But it's hard to point the finger at the front-page editor. That story likely did sell more newspapers. And that is a sad comment on society. Where has our passion gone about expanding our horizons? Are we so caught up in pocket pagers, soccer practice, and a cup of Starbuck's, that we no longer see the forest for the trees? Has it gotten that bad?
It appears to take a major catastrophe for the space program to get prominent headlines. That will certainly change when the shuttle program is back in operation, not because we're exploring space, but because there was a disaster and the jury remains out on whether we can safely fly again. Oncethat is proven, it will all be back in the news briefs section until there is another major problem.
When popular television culture features bikini-clad women eating worms and English nannies fixing our kids, it says something about our society. What it says is anything but pleasant. We have become so fixated on the here and now that the future seems almost irrelevant. Maybe we need a minor meteor strike to wake up this world.
As a working journalist, I feel it is my constant job to tell people about what could be and how we are getting to those goals. Yet it is glamour journalism which seems to get all the attention. Can you say Dan Rather? How about New York Times? The list is endless, and it gives all of journalism a bad name. Yet the real nuts and bolts of journalism takes place in the small newspapers all across this country every week. One of the most commented on columns I ever wrote came after the Challenger accident. I tried very hard to put a human spin on the tragedy, instead of the blame game that was going on across the nation.
Certainly I'm biased, but I strongly believe that it will take people who have actually practiced what we call "community journalism" to take over these media outlets to begin telling the important stories on page one, as well as restoring credibility to our profession. Nothing less will suffice. It's the human element which will eventually propel us beyond the galaxy and into the great unknown. We must start by sharing our human experiences. Humans laugh and cry, and that's what the average person can relate to, not some corporate talking head trying to tell us why things happen. Let us be the judge.
Until that happens, we might as well send a drunken Kid Rock into space so he can get into a brawl with a Martian parasite. Misery does love company and so would the page one editors.