Swamp Rabbit and I were arguing again. The primary goal of mainstream news organizations is to scare people, he said. Fear sells. Just look at the huge response to news coverage in PA, NJ and NY of the “monster snowstorm” that never hit those states.
“You’re wrong,” I said, showing him the front-page story in Wednesday’s Philadelphia Daily News:
A fiery sex scandal threatens to burn up multiple firefighters’ careers, including some top brass, according to former Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers.
Ayers told the Daily News today that the investigation into a young paramedic’s claims of sexual misconduct began shortly before he retired in June.
The paramedic filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, alleging misconduct against another paramedic. Soon after, rumors surfaced that she had sexual encounters with numerous firefighters, paramedics and supervisors in firehouses while on- and off-duty all around the city.
“The goal is to is titillate,” I said, using one of my favorite words. “The story can be a monster storm, a sex scandal, a murder on Main Street. It doesn’t matter, so long as it titillates.”
“Use whatever fancy word you want, Odd Man. News stories is to scare people. Will I git snowed in? Is my husband screwin’ around? Will I get murdered on my way home from the SuperFridge?”
I told him we were both saying the same thing. News venues — tabloids, so-called broadsheets, TV news shows, whatever — exist to dish out infotainment, not news, especially now that they’re fighting Internet sites for people’s attention.
“The snow stories scared me,” I said. “But it’s fun to read about firefighters having sex. What would you do with all that down time, hold Bible classes?”
The rabbit sniffed at my wood stove and said, “Wait till this here shack catches fire and all them firemen are off gettin’ laid. Have fun with that.”
I unlocked the cabinet near the stove and handed him a bottle of Wild Turkey. “Here,” I said. “You’re a real drag when you’re sober.”