We live in a 24/7/365 news cycle. But, even with billions of dollars of resources, thousands of employees and a network of information that rivals anything in the history of the world, the media are incapable of covering more than one subject at a time.
While it is true that we are currently experiencing a once in a lifetime event in the possible collapse of the world's economy, there are other things that merit mentioning. The readers, talking heads, pundits, editorial writers, reporters, bloggers and gatekeepers have let them slip through their fingers on a daily basis.
Why does this happen? One academic told me that the networks and cable channels don't vet their stories based on subject, but on which sound bite will create the biggest sensation. This does not follow the advice of a learned newsperson in the mold of Murrow or Cronkite, but is built more on the philosophy of noted professional wrestling executive and performer Eric Bischoff. His biography was titled "Controversy Creates Cash" and they follow that dictum with each newscast. I'm not sure the founding fathers wrote the first amendment with that in mind.
Local news outlets have long followed the credo "If it bleeds, it leads." This reinforces the prevailing notion that the suffering of others will bring in the audiences. This school of journalistic thought is based on the theory that we are all rubberneckers on the highway of life, that we will stop every thing in an attempt to get a glimpse of the devastating wreck on the side of the road.
News directors, producers and reporters who have followed these paths have missed out on real, substantive stories that affect all of us. This myopic attitude has left viewers and readers uninformed, frustrated and craving the information they deserve. Despite a myriad of missteps and missed opportunities, all facets of the mass media have made a habit of ignoring important stories.
Thursday's under the radar report should come to us from the Clinton Global Initiative. While the evening news will most likely concentrate on Senators McCain and Obama's comments on the fiscal crisis, the one-dimensional media will miss out on an important and riveting address by the Democratic nominee that directly deals with worldwide problems and the solutions he proposes.
In this speech, Obama did what he and his GOP counterpart have not truly done during this campaign. He laid out a clear and concise plan to deal with Global Warming, AIDS, Malaria and, yes, the economic crisis.
But, more significantly, he eloquently detailed the reasons why our perspective has to change from internal to external, from a domestic view to a world view, selfish to altruistic.
"And in the 21st century, we must also recognize that it's not just prosperity that comes from the bottom up. Our security is shared as well."
"The carbon emissions in Boston or Beijing don't just pollute the immediate atmosphere - they imperil our planet."
"Pockets of extreme poverty in Somalia can breed conflict that spills across borders."
"The child who goes to a radical madrasa outside of Karachi can end up endangering the security of my daughters in Chicago."
"A deadly flu that begins in Indonesia can find its way to Indiana within days."
"Climate change. Poverty. Extremism. Disease. These problems offend our common humanity. They also threaten our common security. You know this. The question is what we do about it."
"We're not going to face these threats of the future by grasping at the ideas of the past. In many cases, we know what we have to do. We talk about the solutions year after year. This must be the time when we choose not to wait any longer. We must marshal the will. We must see that none of these problems can be dealt with in isolation, nor can we deny one and effectively tackle another."
This is a powerful statement coming from a potential President of the United States. But, he didn't stop at rhetorical flourish. He announced specific policy items throughout his presentation that he would put forth during his administration. He stated, at various parts of the speech:
"The first commitment that I'll make today is setting a goal of an 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050."
"We all have a stake in reducing poverty. There is suffering across the globe that doesn't need to be tolerated in the 21st century. And it leads to pockets of instability that provide fertile breeding grounds for threats like terror and the smuggling of deadly weapons that cannot be contained by the drawing of a border or the distance of an ocean. These aren't simply disconnected corners of an interconnected world. That is why the second commitment that I will make is embracing the Millennium Development Goals, which aim to cut extreme poverty in half by 2015."
"Above all, we must do our part to see that all children have the basic right to learn. There is nothing more disappointing than a child denied the hope that comes with going to school, and there is nothing more dangerous than a child who is taught to distrust and then to destroy.
"That's why the third commitment I'll make is working to erase the global primary education gap by 2015. Every child - every boy, and every girl - should have the ability to go to school. To ensure that our nation does its part to meet that goal, we need to establish a two billion dollar Global Education Fund. And I look forward to signing the bipartisan Education for All Act that was first introduced by Hillary Clinton - a true champion for children."
"Disease stands in the way of progress on so many fronts. It can condemn populations to poverty, and prevent a child from getting an education. And yet far too many people still die of preventable illnesses. Today, I'd like to focus on one: malaria.
"We have eliminated malaria in the United States, but nearly one million people around the world still die from a mosquito bite every year. 85 percent of the victims are African children under the age of 5. In Africa, a child dies from a mosquito bite every thirty seconds. Beyond the devastating human toll, malaria weighs down public health systems, setting back global capacity to fight other disease.
"So today, I want to join with the global malaria community that is meeting here in New York in making a new commitment: when I am President, we will set the goal of ending all deaths from malaria by 2015. It's time to rid the world of death from a disease that doesn't have to take lives. The United States must lead, and when I am President we will step up our focus on prevention and treatment around the world to get this done.
"The first project of my Small and Medium Enterprise fund will be investing in the developing world's capacity to meet the demand for 730 million bednets. We'll also increase access to doctors and nurses through a new program - Health Infrastructure 2020 - that trains medical professionals in countries around the world, and gives them incentives to stay there. And we'll invest in research and development into new vaccines, and ensure that low cost anti-malaria drugs are available everywhere."
He put forth a decisive and exact platform and it will not be found on any network news or discussed by the chattering class. It was a historic statement that, if he is elected, could be a game changer for the country and the entire world. Obama outlined a plan that would help re-establish the United States as a leader in helping people live better, healthier lives.
But, the vast majority of Americans will never see or hear about it. It doesn't fit the mold or into the single minded, blindly focused newscasts that inhabit our many channels of viewing pleasure. It's not sexy or horrific. It doesn't deal with apocalyptic predictions or death and destruction, so the feeling is that it won't sell.
So, in the end, tonight's news will not truly inform or educate us about the important parts of a historical speech. It will only serve to once again be part of the programming that fills in the black spots between the commercials. This story doesn't fit the mold of the single minded, blindly focused newscasts that inhabit our hundreds of channels of viewing pleasure. The number one story will be the Bush-driven, White House photo opportunity that has been set up to assist the floundering McCain candidacy. And we, the viewers and readers, will once again be hung out to dry and left in a vacuum.