News Savants

One thing that perpetually tends to baffle, perplex, and offend me is the continued ability of the local news media here in San Antonio to get it completely wrong.  The only thing different about this morning’s pathetic attempt to disseminate worthwhile information to the viewing public who not only made the mistake of getting up when the alarm off, but also made the egregious and tragic error of turning on the tube and selecting one of those colossal wastes of bandwidth in search of viable brain candy was that the idiocy reigned so supreme that I felt compelled to put a diatribe on my Facebook status update.  The update became so wordy and incomprehensible (much like the second sentence of this paragraph) that I decided to simplify the update.  For the record, I reported that I was out shopping for a turducken fryer.

Before I continue with this rant, I should put it out there for the record that the particular station that littered my TV this morning was not there by my choice.  Since I wasn’t the first one to get up this morning, I didn’t have possession of the remote control and the highly sought out say-so on what was being watched.  Now that the disclaimer is out of the way, let’s move on.

Guess what? Some government task force studying preventative medicine has announced that women do not need to pay as much attention to the early prevention of breast cancer.  Women in their 40’s don’t need annual mammograms, women 50 – 74 only need one every other year, and self examinations are of no value.  Naturally since the government has told us this, it must be true, right?

I’m not really going to go into the accuracy (or lack thereof) of the latest governmental guidelines on public health.  After all, they’re the ones who told us to sneeze or cough into our sleeves in order to help to prevent the spread of the Swine Flu.    At last report, the CDC suggested that somewhere near 4000 Americans have died from either the H1N1 or complications derived from the virus.  Isn’t it a wonderful thing that we have such an all knowing, all powerful government that has the codependent mindset to suggest what we should do with the flotsam and jetsam that escapes the collective nasal cavities and pie holes of the electorate?  Websites, flyers, and posters have been created with that specific goal in mind.  I’m sure it’s all just a cog in the vast change driven machine that 69 million ill-informed and misguided souls dangled their chads for last year.

So anyway, the local station runs an article this morning about the new guidelines for breast cancer detection.  As expected, they focused on a local survivor who was the beneficiary of early detection.  They also showed images of women of all ages getting mammograms along with the assortment of medical professionals reviewing the x-ray like images of possible breast lumps.  The article wouldn’t have been complete without featuring sound bites of two to three doctors expressing the importance of early detection and their own commentary about how incredibly wrong the new suggested guidelines were.  Go ahead and tell me you’ve never seen a news story that follows that specific paradigm.  Every local station in the country has one of those as stock footage.  It would seem the only reason the station ran the article and the survivor/anchor’s commentary was poorly veiled attempt to boost ratings under the guise or raising awareness.

There was only one initial reaction I had to the report.  I even committed the rare and unexpected act of talking out loud at such and inconsiderate hour in the morning, and uttered the following to Mrs. TharpSter.  “The only thing those guidelines represent is a precursor to the promise of rationing that nationalized healthcare will bring us.”   It was pretty cool to hear my sentiments echoed later in the day on talk radio.

“Well just wait,” responded Mrs. TharpSter.  “(Breast cancer survivor / news anchor whose name I won’t mention here) will have something to say about that.  Breast cancer is her pet project.”  Barely had the admonishment of my beloved wife escaped her lips than ole what’s-her-name on the tube piped up and went into her own diatribe (scripted I’m sure) about how early detection saved her and gave her many more years to offer up stupid puns on the local morning show.  In addition, she espoused her involvement with the National Cancer Society, and that more aggressive steps should be take to identify breast cancer than those recently suggested by some task force.

Fine.  Good for her.

Sadly, she missed the flashing warning light from the “Stupid – Meter” a few minutes too late.

In recent months, it’s become painfully obvious (probably more than ever before) that the media will report anything, regardless of the accuracy of the content.  The adventures of the young boy flying away in a weather balloon designed to look like a Jiffy Pop container immediately comes to mind.    What’s even more painful is that they never seem to even question the talking heads who publish such foolishness.  Case in point, why didn’t the media ask the boy’s father how such a light balloon could have carried his boy to points unknown?  Did he not see the Mythbusters episode where they busted the myth about balloons kidnapping children?

Why did the station not find the authors of the guidelines and make them justify their claims?  One of them is reported to be attached to the Cancer Therapy Research Center right here in town.  It’s not like they couldn’t find them.

The questions would be pretty easy if you think about it:

“Well Mr. Policy Wonk.  What data do you have which suggests self examination are of no value?  Are you aware of the countless stories from survivors who are here because of self examination?  For that matter, are you aware of the statistics that overwhelmingly backs up the premise of early detection and more frequent exams than what you are suggesting?”

I wouldn’t let him off the hook there though.

“Moving on Mr. Wonk, let’s look at the administration’s stand on this.  One of the foundations of Obamacare is based in wellness, preventative medicine, and early detection of that which ails us.  Aren’t these guidelines inconsistent with what the administration wants to encourage?”  After a sufficient amount of time of an attempted answer accented with assorted “hems” and “haws”, I would then follow up with a “Let’s cut to the chase” question.  “Tell you what, Mr. Wonk.  These guidelines come across as completely ridiculous.  Breast cancer is a big thing in this country today.  For the government to come out and suggest that steps we normally take to detect it as early as possible need to be dialed back just doesn’t make sense.  How many women who self examine regularly and get their annual mammograms do you think are really, really going to follow your bidding?  Does the administration really want to take on the blame for killing women with breast cancer because early detection guidelines suggested less intervention?”  I can assure you that if the producers from the local station had asked these questions instead of just rehashing the same old story, they would have enjoyed better ratings.

So what happens now?  I would expect that the public outcry against today’s news will hit a fevered pitch in the coming weeks.  The task force will most likely make a follow up press release describing how today’s release has been taken out of context. I expect they will reiterate that the guidelines are suggested more for those who are high at risk versus those at moderate or low risk.  Feel free to keep an eye out for that.  In the meantime, I’ll be holding a candle in the wind in a never ending search for an outlet in the mainstream media which will do more than just a smell test on the crap it’s being fed.

Randy Tharp

TharpSter is a husband to one woman, a father to two kids, a master to two dogs, an occasional cubical occupant, and unable to make up his mind on an adequate theme for this website.

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