April 2018

Line in the Sand: Front Page News

Author: Barry Kaufman & Courtney Hampson | Photographer: M.Kat Photography

Opinion 1: Barry Kaufman
As you may have read, we recently lost a towering figure in the televangelism world. You may have read this, because for reasons that escape me, it was on the front page of the paper for something like a week.
I certainly don’t want to make light of the fact that he’s passed on, and I wish nothing but the best for his family and loved ones. But I really feel like maybe we could have pumped the brakes on this one a little. Sure, he was a big deal, but there have been presidents who didn’t get this much ink when they died.

If I’m being honest, my first reaction on hearing the news was thinking Billy Graham had already died. But my not noticing it doesn’t detract at all from the fact that he’d made an indelible impact on the world. To me, it’s weird that he was on the front page for a week. To others, a week was hardly enough. This did lead to a discussion, of course, between Courtney and me on what exactly constitutes big, front-page news.
The very concept of news, the essence of what’s important enough to fill the front page every day, is highly subjective. And editors are only human, at least most of them (I’ve worked with a few I’m convinced were Martians). Their own personal biases can have a tremendous impact on which stories get run and which stories don’t. In fact, there are entire cable networks built around this principle.

So, with this edition of Line in the Sand, Courtney and I are going to play editor and decide which local and national news stories we would consider front-page news. I have an edge here in that I used to work for a newspaper, and have served as an editor, but bear in mind, my job at the newspaper was to basically generate angry letters and make sophomoric jokes.

My top local story
For my money, there is no more vital and pressing matter in the lives of Lowcountry citizens than the continued existence of turn signals. People all across Bluffton and Hilton Head Island are waking up to the fact that there is a tiny lever just behind their steering wheel which can be used to activate a flashing light on the outside of their car. This flashing light alerts other motorists as to your intentions, allowing for easier traffic flow and a marked decrease in my kids learning new curse words. But to many, the function of this lever, and in fact its very existence, remains a mystery.

My top national story
There is a silent epidemic plaguing this country, baffling scientists and tearing down centuries of human progress. It afflicts the young primarily, those youthful minds too undeveloped to cope with this tragic affliction. I’m talking about the very real problem of people believing the earth is flat.

I know, I thought we settled this with the whole Magellan thing, too. But apparently the curvature of the earth is still a matter of debate among young people who have never been up in an airplane.

The Flat-Earth movement began, as you most likely already guessed, on the Internet, where bad ideas are gently nurtured into bloom in a hothouse of shoddy research and trolling. The central tenant of their philosophy is that the heliocentric globe model we’ve all been taught by common sense and easily researched scientific observation is, in fact, a government conspiracy. Obviously, the man is keeping us from knowing the truth: that earth is a flat disc ringed by a tall ice shelf we call Antarctica. The fact that people have been to Antarctica and not fallen off the edge poses no problems to the flat-earth model. And this isn’t just a pocket full of fringe YouTubers. They actually held a Flat Earth International Conference in Raleigh this past November. If you couldn’t make it to the FEIC, you can still watch their seminars online for $8 a pop. And trust me, they’re worth every penny—especially if you like Ted Talks but also like seeing someone with a middle school education elocuting about government conspiracies.

Look, I’m all for questioning the world around you. But when your entire theory can be disproven by climbing a very large hill, maybe it’s time to rethink the YouTube videos.

And for God’s sake, start using your turn signals.

____________________________

Opinion 2: Courntey Hampson

“Alexa.”

“Good morning.”
“Good morning! Today is Johnny Appleseed Day, celebrating the life of John Chapman, the American legend who traveled the country planting apple seeds. Most of his trees produced apples that weren’t great for eating but perfect for apple cider. So, Mr. Appleseed, I say cheers to you.”

And that will be the last bit of news worth hearing today.

What used to be my Zen-filled morning ritual: workout, shower, coffee, The Today Show, is now fraught with stress, some yelling at the television and alternating quips of, “What is wrong with this person?” and “Is this really news?”

I realize the irony here. I am a member of the media. One of my paychecks comes from a media outlet. I am about to blast the media, and you may blast me in return.

Over the weekend President Trump called Meet the Press host Chuck Todd a “son of a bitch.” This morning, on The Today Show, Savannah Guthrie asked Education Secretary Betsy DeVos what she thinks of the president using bad words to describe her colleague. I am literally staring at the television and wondering what in the (our) world is going on right now?

If our emails are ever subpoenaed, folks will get a kick out of how Barry and I pre-debate our debates each month. It usually starts with something we read in the news or on social media that drives us crazy. We hope the other disagrees. Many times, we don’t disagree with each other. In fact, this month’s topic evolved out of a conversation around Billy Graham’s death. In my never-ending struggle to understand how separation of church and state works, I was surprised by Graham’s spot in the U.S. Capitol rotunda. When I nudged Barry on the topic, he was (not surprisingly, because we are both brilliant) in agreement, but even more frustrated over the fact that Graham’s death was a headline-maker for days on end — as if the papers expected him to not be dead one day.

So rather than debate what we believe to be “fake news,” we decided to take a stab at determining what we believe the real news stories are, locally, regionally, and nationally. Barry believes he has the edge, being a former newspaper editor himself. He forgets that I was one of his writers who had a real gift for pissing off the readers, which by the way, sells more papers, and generates more phone calls and letters to the editor (and oh, he received some doozies).

I thought it would be easy to find some good news, but I ended up taking a 10-day pause between the paragraph above and this sentence. Until last night, when I read about a dog who rescued a man in the Okatie River yesterday. My top stories:

Must love dogs
Jason DuBose, who runs the Outfitters Center at Oldfield shared last night that he, his colleague Jeremy Webb, and Oldfield’s security director Tim Helm did a boat rescue today on the Okatie River after another boat capsized, leaving three people in the water. They found one person stuck in the marsh, buried up to his waist in the mud, with hypothermia setting in. The second person managed to climb through the marsh and make it to dry land. The third person was cramping up from the cold water, could not make it to shore, and was going down quickly. A dog, on a dock about 100 yards away, saw the man struggling, jumped in the water, swam out to the man, and pulled him back to shore by letting him hold on to his collar. Good dog.

I believe the children are our future
Oh, wait, that was Whitney Houston. But add South Carolina Department of Insurance Director Ray Farmer to list of believers. According to the Post and Courier, earlier this week, Farmer announced that parents in his state agency can now bring their infants to work. “Programs such as these can assist with employee retention and the success of this agency,” Farmer wrote in a memo to employees this week, introducing a trial. “The new insurance department program is the first of its kind at a South Carolina cabinet agency. But both public and private organizations elsewhere around the country have instituted similar policies in recent years in efforts to ease employees back into the workplace after having a child.”

Won’t you be my neighbor?
National statistics tell us that 22 veterans are committing suicide every day. To quote Jake Walsh, veteran and founder of Honor Our Heroes Foundation, “If that statistic was about teachers, this would be a national epidemic.” Enter the Nine Line Foundation, whose mission is to improve the quality of life of our most severely wounded military heroes, focusing on the individual needs of each candidate. Earlier this month, they announced that they will be constructing a Veterans Village in Savannah, providing transitional housing for homeless veterans, as well as partnering with other organizations to teach veterans the trade of aquaponics/hydroponics farming, while providing counseling and life skill development to help them get back on their feet and back into society.

It’s not you, it’s me
To quote (the great, yet fake) President Andrew Shepherd, “We’ve got serious problems, and we need serious people.”

I’d be happy with a world where our president doesn’t curse people; I’d be happier with a world where our news media doesn’t report on it.

Let Us Know what You Think ...

commenting closed for this article