Just the facts, please: Feelings cloud issues
Editor in chief should use column to effect change, not lament
By Benjamin Davidson
Roxane Marquez’s anguished columns of innocence lost are really
starting to grow on me – kind of in the same way that mold grows on
a loaf of stale bread, that is. Look, I’ve had it up to here with
these columns that attempt to tug at our heart strings, and in the
process, "enlighten" us ignorant students about the harsh, ugly
realities of life.
Enough about unraveling teddy bears. Enough about brown tap
water and insensitive editors named Mike who munch nonchalantly on
tuna sandwiches while democracy goes to hell in a handbasket.
Enough about men who don’t give a fuck.
MÃ¡rquez is a good writer – a damn good writer. Her sentence
structures are impeccable, her vocabulary impressive, and she has a
remarkable knack for capturing complex emotions in poignant,
elegant phrases. Unfortunately, that’s exactly where her problem
lies. By relying so much on her power to move with words, she
neglects the very thing that she chastises the mainstream media for
neglecting – substance.
With the ability to change minds, she goes for the heart, the
less challenging path, by far. With the ability to convince, she
MÃ¡rquez looks out over the vast wastelands of blindness and
excess that shroud the UCLA student body and feels the need to
educate, sensitize and even discipline her wayward children. That’s
quite understandable. After all, the hacky-sacking, chain-smoking,
head-banging, party-going, oblivious masses must learn the facts of
life. And now we have Mother Roxane to teach us all about this here
fucked-up world. Isn’t that nice?
What she doesn’t realize is that we’re smarter than all that,
that she’s barking up the wrong tree. MÃ¡rquez urges us to
expand our horizons, to look up and see all the dirt, filth and
slime that is hastening the decay of our great civilization. But
there’s just one flaw: Her telling us is mostly unnecessary. We
already know it’s there.
We don’t need anyone telling us that living conditions in most
of Los Angeles are intolerable or that college students make up
only a small, very fortunate segment of the population. And we
especially don’t need anyone insulting our intelligence by telling
us that "there’s more going on around us than just fun and games."
Oh, really? You don’t say.
My point is that instead of focusing all her energies on telling
us simply that we need to care (even the most apathetic among us
are aware that we should care, even if in practice we don’t do
anything), MÃ¡rquez should tell us which issues out there she
believes deserve our attention.
She should tell us why these issues are so important and how we
can best change the situation. Of course, that might require a bit
of research on her part. But then again, there’s more to journalism
than simply coming up with columns off the top of your head. A
successful journalist must take that extra step that the public is
either unwilling or unable to take.
I, too, hunger for the day when I can sit down in front of the
television and not be irritated to the point of anger by the
trivial nonsense that masquerades as news on local TV stations. I
don’t think it would be too cynical to say it is almost impossible
to learn anything important in an average newscast. For
MÃ¡rquez not to know this before her internship two summers ago
points to either extreme naivete or ignorance on par with that of
which she accuses her audience.
How did MÃ¡rquez ever get the notion into her head that
television is interested in anything other than the bottom line –
making a big profit with dramatic images of sex, violence and
scandal? Did her "market reports" really surprise her that much?
It’s all about ratings. End of story.
So what’s the solution? Complaining about the sad state of
affairs in a country where the bottom line is the only line that
matters is not enough. And for whatever reason, there are still too
many people happy with the news coverage to expect any significant
change in the near future (read: the next 200 years).
One solution, brought up in one of my classes last quarter,
would be to grant more money to public television and radio
stations like KCET and KCRW. Maybe that would eliminate the need
for that horrid breed of comedian-weathermen and those pesky market
reports. Sorry, Fritz.
Part of the responsibility also falls onto the shoulders of the
media themselves. It is up to MÃ¡rquez and her cronies to show
O.J. addicts, like myself, that many political issues actually do
affect us a whole hell of a lot, either directly or indirectly.
Don’t be so terrified that anything remotely political will turn
off 99 percent of your audience. There are effective ways to convey
that without slipping into intellectualese or, as MÃ¡rquez
does, dumbing down your arguments for us.
The world is a bit more complex than "poor woman equals good"
and "male editor with tuna sandwich equals bad." If MÃ¡rquez
really wants to educate us on the desperate conditions in the
ghettos, she should tell us a little about the politics behind
poverty. Why are they the way they are? What legislation is being
passed or ignored right now that could affect the lives of the
inner-city dwellers? What can we do to help?
Please. Give me facts, not just feelings. Give me arguments, not
just hot air. Give me lucid interpretations, not just muddy
Here’ s step one for you: Get rid of Princeton Kim and his
oh-so-erudite "opposing viewpoints." Just think of what else could
fill that precious space …
Davidson is a fourth-year sociology student.
… Even the most apathetic among us are aware that we should
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