Thursday, June 01, 2006

Outside Of Town, Was It News?

It was a town of 3,000 which kept pretty well to itself. Nothing much newsworthy ever happened there; well, maybe a few disagreements and some people who couldn't handle their alcohol on occasion. Once in a while someone would land in the brig. Recently, a guy jumped off the tallest structure in town and died. Tragic, but not the sort of thing that would make the national news.

Except it did: Newspapers, internet, probably radio and tv. The guy wasn't even well-known, but since he dove off a cruise ship, it suddenly became Big News.

It was a town of 4,000 and 128 came down with what we commonly call the Stomach Virus. Not all at once; a few here, a few there over the course of a week. For something that spreads so quickly and fully, it really was amazing that so few were ill. By all the media reports, you'd think this cruise ship was a floating hospital. It's the second most-common illness in this country, outdone only by the common cold, occurring everywhere there are people, all the time. But cruise ships are what get the publicity, not schools or nursing homes.

I don't know the figures on total number of passengers carried each year. Is it eleven million? Or thirty-five million? Both figures ring a bell. Out of those, I think 24 have come up missing in the last five years. My guess is that most are jumpers; it would have been 25, but I stopped one. Add up what cities you need to make those figures and, although 24 missing are still tragic, it's a miniscule figure.

But it makes for breathless, where is their responsibility, we're on your side, reporting by people who will have forgotten this when they produce and broadcast next week's breathless report on, whatever, toads in your toilet or something.

How did humanity last this long without "20/20" and "Primetime Live" and all those eye-popping programs that show up during ratings ("Sweeps") months?


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