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Sacrificing Baby Ducks for the Arts

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Yes, you read that right. I am advocating getting rid of adorable little ducklings in order to advance the cause of the arts in the United States. Getting rid of them from national television news, that is.

Tuesday morning, during the first segment of The Today Show, the portion of the program supposedly dedicated to "hard news," roughly 20 seconds of airtime was devoted to a story about baby ducks being rescued from a storm drain. I do not recall where this gripping tale of survival had occurred, only that the duckies were safe. Whew.

This followed on the heels of Monday night's NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams, which included reports on the new low-calorie Slurpee, The Avengers passing the $1 billion mark at the box office, Thin Mints being the most popular flavor of Girl Scout cookies (as if there had been doubt), current trends in baby names, and a segment on the dog that won Britain's Got Talent.

This is not exactly a new phenomenon, this ongoing degradation of what is considered news, but the aggregation of so many meaningless stories on a single network in just over 12 hours got my dander up. Because I do not have multiple DVRs or an intern, I cannot do a comparison as to what stories were worthy of airtime on CBS or ABC at the same time; I take it on faith that the Slurpee story did not make it on to PBS's The News Hour (though their sober coverage of such an important dietary advancement might have proven rather entertaining). I suspect I missed some really terrific fluff.

Whenever I see stories like these, I wonder why national television news rarely finds time for the arts. Yes, if Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark starts injuring actors again, you can bet the networks will be right there. When The Book of Mormon introduces the first $1,000 theatre ticket, we'll hear about how expensive theatre is. But showcasing the excellence and breadth of the arts, even in 30 second snippets? That, apparently, is not news.

Further evidence of this phenomenon. Have you ever read about a production of Sam Shepard's Curse of the Starving Class? I'm willing to bet that if you have, it focused on the live lamb the script requires, and the care requirements for said infant sheep. It's a perennial and always engaging, as they grow quickly, don't take direction and tend to defecate at inopportune times. Or take last summer, when there was an uproar and significant coverage when the Royal Shakespeare Company skinned a dead rabbit on stage and they were forced to substitute a prop bunny. That, apparently, was arts coverage gold, sustaining my theory. Cute animals = coverage. Endangering cute animals or trafficking in their corpses = even more coverage.

Must America's orchestras, opera companies, dance companies, and theatres produce only baby-animal themed works? Or must they take baby animals hostage en masse in order to get attention? Has soliciting coverage of the arts been reduced to pandering or kidnapping? I have previously suggested that getting celebrities arrested during protests in support of arts funding might draw attention, but apparently Streeps and Kardashians alike have an aversion to orange jumpsuits, so that's gotten nowhere.

News directors, please leave the animal stories and pictures to the Internet, which was apparently built specifically to disseminate such "aw"-inspiring material. And with the time you free up, maybe you can spare a minute for the arts now and then. If you do, I'll spare my pet baby koala from anything untoward. Promise.