The Rockwood Files: If it bleeds, it leads

By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3

Tom and I realized a long time ago that our kids, ages 9, 7 and 4, wouldn’t be able to watch much television past 7 p.m. Even at that hour, I can count on two fingers the number of shows without bad language, adult situations or jokes heavy with sexual innuendo.

But we never thought we’d have to sprint across the room at 5:30 p.m. to turn off the nightly news. We often watch the news in the kitchen while we’re making dinner, and we always thought it would be good if the kids saw it, too, so we could talk about what’s going on in the world – economics, foreign relations, business trends, politics and natural disasters. What we didn’t anticipate, however, was trying to explain something like “Weinergate” to kids under the age of 10.

Thankfully, they didn’t see much of the Weiner report before we hurriedly changed the channel, so they haven’t asked questions yet. But it’s certainly not the only bad behavior making headlines. Last month we were dodging news stories about Schwarzenegger’s dirty little secret with the maid. Before that it was Charlie Sheen’s unique brand of crazy and crude which got an alarming amount of media attention. And last year we couldn’t watch five minutes of a newscast without hearing about how Tiger Woods betrayed his family with a string of high-heeled mistakes. Watching the televised scandals unfold is like a game of Whack-a-Mole. Just when you smack down one report, another one pops right back up.

There’s an old saying in the news industry that says, “If it bleeds, it leads.” It basically means that if the story involves blood, guts, and/or death, it’ll be the lead story. Perhaps news producers have added a new mantra these past few years that says, “If it’s nude, it gets viewed.”

But here’s the real question: Is it a good change or not? On one hand, I’m happy that a guy like Weiner got busted in a big media way because anyone with that combination of arrogance and stupidity should not be making decisions that affect the whole country. Because of the publicity, he will likely resign or be voted out of office in short order.

On the other hand, I wish my kids were growing up watching news stories about things that really matter – improving education, lowering crime rates, finding cures for disease, getting the country out of debt. In the grand scheme of things, will a report about some moron’s fascination with his private parts create any real progress? Or is it just titillating and ironic, given his descriptive last name?

I’ve been mulling over these questions ever since Weiner’s infamous tweet was heard around the world, and I’m still not sure about the answers. But I do know I don’t want my kids to see so much scandal reporting that they grow up thinking that lying, cheating and cover-ups are just par for the course, whether you’re a movie star, top athlete, an elected official or anything between.

I want them to know there are good men and women in the world tackling tough problems – people who love their families and are too busy to waste time flirting online or taking stupid risks. I want them to know those people are newsworthy, too.

In the meantime, we’re watching mostly sports in the kitchen now. Slam dunks are so much easier to talk about during dinner than what’s being served up on the evening news. We wait until the kids go to bed to watch a newscast because, far too often, sensationalism trumps serious issues, and shocking wins out over thought-provoking almost every time. Lately, the “breaking news” is breaking our spirit, too.

Gwen Rockwood is a mom to three great kids, wife to one cool guy, a newspaper columnist and co-owner of To read previously published installments of The Rockwood Files, click here.


1 Comment

  1. I don’t even watch the nightly news anymore. I’m probably horrifically out of touch (although I do pick up on things online) but I just can’t stand the doom and gloom.

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