Sunday, November 21, 2004

Oldest man dies

The world's oldest man has died just shy of his 114th birthday. In a somehat poignant punctuation to his life, Fred Hale Sr. lived long enough to see his beloved Boston Red Sox win baseball's World Series.

For some ridiculous reason, I always have to have a journalistically-focused thought as well. I've never been fully comfortable with the way these oldest-person-dies stories are handled by the media. They're typically dropped into the end of a newscast as a kicker, a lighter-brighter topic whose inclusion is supposed to end the show with a bit of a human touch.

I have no problem with kickers, per se. Rather, it's the routine way in which lineup editors pull in the oldest-person-dies ones. Like clockwork, we'll see 'em about once a month, and they always take on the same generic tone that patronizingly refers to the usual litany of senior citizen stereotypes. Something about driving? Check. Something about outliving a spouse? Yup. How's about some comment about the individual's smoking or drinking habits? Check.

After a cursory check of who the newest oldest-person is - nothing like flagging someone as the next high-profile person to die - it's back to the trustworthy anchor who, before signing off for the night, nods his (yes, are still overrepresented on anchor desks, but that's an issue for another day) head and smiles like the half-wit that he is to let us know that this is supposed to be a Happy Story.

Yeah, I'm sure the deceased's family feels Just The Same Way, Lloyd!

Beyond the cloying level of disrespect shown for someone who's just passed away, the entire exercise strikes me as lazy journalism. Am I the only Andy Rooney-type who feels this way?


Anonymous said...

lazy, maybe-- but perhaps they know that the public prefers "easy" stories over ones that actually make them think :)

You forgot the other standard feel-good stories though, such as Child Rescued From 20 Foot Well, The Power Of Prayer, and Poor Kid Made Good Donates Buckets Of Money For Big Grey Building. There are others I routinely see where I live in Florida, but I think that's enough for now.


Anonymous said...

My great grandma died at 102.

She outlived her doctor of 50 years, who one day brought his son in, also a doctor, to get them aquainted because he was going to be giving her her checkups from then on.

"I'm sorry," she said. " but I can't afford o pay for oh of you!"

The doctor only ever charged her a dollar for her visits!

Jef said...

Personally, I wish they would tell something really juicy about the senior like he enjoyed sodomizing melons in his free time or she confessed on her deathbed to killing and burying all the people who ever sent her fruitcakes at the holidays in her backyard.

DeAnn said...

You know, I loved that he got to see the Red Sox win, because he was quoted in the stories. His son is 90-something, which made the stories about him after the Red Sox won even cuter. Because the dad couldn't hear that well, so his son had to yell into his ear.

I love that he lived such a long life and got to see the Red Sox finally win again!

Dean said...

It is lazy journalism, but no lazier than simply accepting the US administration feed on what is going on in Iraq. And, I might add, a great deal more trivial.

Besides, how do we know that he was the oldest man in the world? Because they said so.

(I guess I'm grumpy...)

Jamie said...

I think most Network TV news is lazy. I also think most of it is propaganda. When I saw a 1 minute blurb about the Sudan, I was shocked they showed it. Real news? Nooo, not MY local station. But then they went on to show the pres saying something incoherent, so I went back into my coma...

Anonymous said...

I write about older adults every day. I try to focus on people who are leading busy, active lives, those who volunteer or do some other community service. I also touch on issues that affect older adults, like Medicare reform. There's a hug need for information out there for seniors. It's just how it's handled that sometimes is lacking.

carmilevy said...

I hope people like all of you end up writing about me when I'm old and gray. Perhaps media hounds will have learned to look beyond mere stereotypes by then. One can always hope.