Good Night Walter Cronkite, Hello HBO

I grew up on a diet of Walter Cronkite delivering the 6 o’clock news. There wasn’t a better more trusting custodian to report the current events with his deep-seated integrity matched only by his compassion.

With the changing times, I now get my news from ‘Last Week Tonight with John Oliver’ and ‘Bill Maher’ both on HBO. Their satirical comedy reaches the depths of which regular news programs cannot travel to. Issues are thrown into a ring and wrestled mercilessly exposing the many threads that created the controversy. Sacred cows are punctured, and it becomes an enlightening accounting of all the collateral facts. The shows manage to intertwine seriousness into the biting themes of the week.

Bill Maher hosts a weekly panel comprised of different views and varying opinions. A cross-section of individuals each arguing the matter from contrasting perspectives, experiences, and lenses. The underlining common denominator that envelopes the controversy being humanity, fairness, and compassion. Love or hate them; these shows routinely deliver current events in a manner where the viewer is empowered and we are reminded that we are all one.  With the issues magnified, there are new insights and a subtext that speaks to unity, not separation. Comedy or not those are compelling summations. John Oliver is no different from his thorough critiquing of events routinely challenging beliefs. We’re more receptive and open to new possibilities when we’re laughing and in resistance when we’re not. These programs latch onto the weighty current events and intelligently tear them apart.

With the onslaught of digital technology I don’t need to watch the news, it finds me. From community newsletters to random stories that show up on my digital devices. If I want to find something out, then I’ll go to void of advertising, government or corporate funding. The Telegraph reported that we take in what would be equal to 174 newspapers of data a day. I’d say that’s a whopping amount of information. Mindful of the regimen of information I already absorb routinely, I’m selective, aware that news can become an audio and visual Zoloft that serves no higher purpose except to desensitize a person. That’s when complacency can set in and that’s dangerous.

The newscasts I use to watch lost me by reporting on salacious stories and those based on trends. Having no relatability for me, they were appealing to advertisers. I commenced distancing myself and discovering in the process these alternative shows.  A story takes time to research and report and time is a commodity that no longer exists in a landscape demanding instant delivery of information. Along with that, are a slew of individuals who aren’t journalists but are supplying content. With falling advertising revenues displaced to various online platforms, editorial standards have had to adapt. All are aspects of the radical transition in the evolution of the news. Long-established daily news programs don’t have the luxury of time.  Whereas these satirical shows, have one weekly program to prepare for with a dynamic team who diligently work to deliver all sides of the issue.

Television is a business, and programs like those on HBO can afford a different delivery from their competitors. Tackling complex current issues and distilling them down to their bare facts for their audience.  Removing embellishments and pulling back the curtain, exposing something for what it is, is relevant. With a legal team, as sharp as a santoku knife they aid the comedians in citing legitimate references and provide examinations in a way that traditional media cannot. All done with the filter off so these comedians can relay their weekly content accurately, mindfully and amusingly. Conventional news programs are exempt from that type of liberation.

The news is typically rooted in fear. We are captivated by it, and it is brilliant in keeping us there. The more destructive the stories, the worse we feel, and the more advertisers line up betting that enough eyeballs will be watching so they can peddle their wares. It’s an addiction that I no longer have especially before bed. With the pendulum to one side, you would think that someone might create a program that speaks to the great things that happen each day. Those events exist as much as the bleak stories that are routinely featured. It’s hard to imagine that notion as that’s how conditioned we’ve become to the gloomy stories relayed daily. I choose more of those feel-good stories to find me, and they do. Perhaps it’s the human condition to be attracted to the despair, but I think it’s choice. I do not wish to feel agitated and hopeless at the end of the day followed by a restless sleep and then waking up to the same script. It’s incongruent to being in a place of joy and living in possibility.  A cup of chamomile and feeling peaceful as you lay your head on the pillow is my solution. I don’t need to get absorbed in the international workings of the planet to become the shift I want to see.  I just need to do it.  Life can be as sad or happy as we choose to make it. The choice is ours.

I believe there is poetic justice in the news programs hosted by comedians. It’s an appropriate cultural mirror of the insanity that is happening, and it’s deserving of being satirized as it’s as ridiculous as the times it reflects. I’m enjoying my news delivered in this format especially since I grew up with the influence of Mad Magazine and National Lampoon.  I trust these guys more then I do those broadcasting the six o’clock news and that’s what Walter Cronkite was all about – trust.

It ’s no accident that comedians are taking hot potatoes and exposing the facts surrounding them. It’s what they do. A dose of satire while unmasking how ridiculous an issue is from several perspectives is healthy. It brings objectivity to the equation and frames us to see things in a new way including our problems. Comedy doesn’t misrepresent the facts. It augments the factors that are demanding examination.

There is no question that journalists must be preserved. They are the custodians of our history. For now, Truth is enjoying its portrayal in a different appearance, one that is more fitting to reflect the times and there’s nothing wrong with that.