Thursday, August 16, 2007

I Remember When You Could Get a Loaf of Bread for a White Lie

Those were the days. When groceries were affordable and journalism was had integrity.

Of course, I’m not really talking about journalism, I’m talking about Dateline NBC. When it’s not driving would-be perverts to suicide, the news magazine exploits human misery in other ways. Things like murder “mysteries.” Usually on a smaller scale (unless a disenfranchised student goes on a killing spree, or it’s the anniversary of a disenfranchised student’s killing spree).

It can be somewhat entertaining, often terrifying, but I don’t remember it being so damned “hard boiled.”

As I was brushing my teeth last night, getting ready for bed (yes, I go to sleep at 10; I’m 34 years old now!), Dateline was on my TV. I was too lazy to turn the channel after Last Comic Standing ended (They sent home Matt Kirshen! That kid was funny, damnit).

Dateline was doing a story about a polo player who disappeared in The Philippines or something. This was the way the voice-over described Southeast Asia:

“It’s like opening the door to a very dark world where the currency is…betrayal.

The currency is betrayal?

I’m sure the story went on to discuss some business dealing gone horribly wrong. But before that statement was uttered on the show, the reporter had been talking about the victim’s alleged Asian extramarital affair. So the fact that The Philippines’ currency is betrayal seemed to me like a bit of a non sequitur. (Unless the guy was planning to trade his affair for a new car.)

Southeast Asia; where the currency is betrayal.

Southeast Asia, where they barter in misery, prepare food with revenge (and fish sauce) and floss their teeth with treason.

I’m sure they were going for an edgy feel to the “story.” But don’t the writers on these shows get paid well? The reporters don’t write the copy do they? It’s possible that whoever wrote this is practicing for their new pulp fiction novel.

“The Philippines; a place where a reporter can get a cup of joe, but shouldn’t be surprised if it growls at him. Where the jungles are steamy but the dames are steamier. Where pennies on the dollar can get you a night on the town, but can’t buy your dignity.”

They might as well write that stuff. Then they wouldn’t have to fill the story up with inane drivel like this:

“John Elwin loved polo like he loved life.”

And exact quote from the top of the broadcast. But what does that mean? I wish they would have said, “John Elwin played polo like he lived his life.” Then I could have added “…straddling a large mammal.” But they didn’t. They went for the even more vague statement.

Did John Elwin love polo like he loved his life? Will we ever know? He’s dead…I assume…I didn’t watch the whole thing. And can we trust the people who knew him best to tell us? He was having an affair that he kept secret from everyone after all.

Who cares?

Not me.

But we should expect more from our journalists, shouldn’t we? They’ve gotten horribly lazy. Someone should start a letter writing campaign to stop these lazy hacks.

Let me know how it goes.

Fun Fact: The Philippines’ actual currency is the Philippine Peso. And the exchange rate is high. You can get a lot of pesos for a dollar, but even that’s not enough to buy back your soul.

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