When there’s an ongoing story of great interest, such as the oil disaster in the Gulf, journalism wants to keep its inky finger on the pulse of that problem until the post-mortem report comes out. If people want to hear about it, the news can only profit by giving it to them.
There always comes a time, however, when the interest is still high yet there’s nothing really new to report. This is when journalism finally admits it’s time to step back a little and concentrate on something else, even though people aren’t talking about it yet.
Ha! Just kidding. Instead, journalism finds “new angles” to report upon the problem, by which is meant “any stupid means necessary to keep the headlines rolling.” It is through one of these angles which we receive the following AP feature: ‘Journalist dives into Gulf, can see only oil.’ If you think you’ve already learned about all you’re going to out of this story from the headline, you’re right. It begins with this nugget of intrepid observation:
Some 40 miles out into the Gulf Of Mexico, I jump off the boat into the thickest patch of red oil I’ve ever seen. I open my eyes and realize my mask is already smeared. I can’t see anything and we’re just five seconds into the dive.
Whereas normal, untrained people would take weeks or months to discover this fact upon themselves, it takes less than five seconds for we journalists to inform you that oil is opaque. This is why you still need us.
The reporter goes on to tell us of a few deaths beneath the slick, including small fish and a jellyfish. A friend brought up the reasonable point of how you can tell a jellyfish is dead when they aren’t that inclined to move much on their own accord when alive. But journalists are taught how to conduct such astute observations: we poke the jellyfish. And then we poke it again. That’s what we call “vetting your information.”
So after verifying that oil is not water and that it has been killing animals like all the ones that have been washing up on beaches for the past several weeks, the reporter gets to his real purpose; to get “people to see the spill in a new way, a way they haven’t yet.” He takes photos of the spill from underwater, which end up looking a lot like photos taken from above the water, but just… wavier. Now your eyes and soul have been opened to just horrifying this spill is, because you surely haven’t had the weight of this situation pounded into you enough already. We will show you every glistening molecule until you’re overflowing with emotion.
No need to thank us. That’s what we’re here for.