Tag Archives: news

A stupidly-limited view of the world

My feed-reader is completely unbalanced and I’ll have to do something about it. I just counted up the origins of the feeds I’ve been getting:

USA: 60
unknown: 34
Australia: 23
UK: 8
New Zealand: 2
Canada: 1
Uganda: 1

The “unknown” category covers mostly Pinboard accounts, which don’t show where the account-holder lives. But most of them could be classed as “USA” too, if the origin of their bookmarked articles is anything to go by.

And in the “Australia” category there are only two local sources: my financial institution, which tweets about local events now and again (mostly sporting events, which I don’t give a stuff about), and ABC local radio, which provides written news articles about some of its stories, bless it.

Reading the news

I read a news article yesterday and this morning I’m still thinking about it.

I keep wishing journalists would do behind-the-scenes stories to explain what’s going on in the broader context of news events, but I guess they don’t have time. In the absence of more explanation, I just end up speculating and imagining.

My latest speculating and imagining builds around this article. A video has been added since last night, but thanks to my dodgy slow connection, I can’t see more than half of it.

From what I’ve read or seen, these are the facts:
– A 34-year-old woman with a blood alcohol reading of four times the legal limit rolled a car on an unsealed and presumably semi-rural road in western Melbourne.
– The car was carrying ten children and only nine of them were restrained. Some of them were injured in the accident, and one may permanently lose the sight in one eye.
– The woman will be pleading guilty to the charges, so there won’t be a court case or any further explanation of what happened, or not unless the judge’s sentencing remarks appear online (I haven’t yet checked whether that happens in Victoria).
– According to the article, the children had been hungry and the woman took them to get food because she hadn’t wanted to leave them at home with their father, who had passed out drunk.
– The children were all under 16, and one was a six-month-old baby. Seven of them were “hers” (a strange term when you think about it, but I guess the article is trying to establish the family structure or something). Three of the kids were her boyfriend’s; he has 15.
– The video shows the woman walking up the street towards court alone.
– The article says the children are no longer in her care, but doesn’t say what’s happened to them.

Put yourself into that story. Be the woman, or the boyfriend, or one of the children, or one of the police or ambulance workers arriving on the scene of the accident, where it’s dark and presumably children are screaming; or be the lawyer, or the judge, or a social worker, or someone in the extended family, or a neighbour, or even the mechanic who has to haul away the wrecked car and find something to do with it.

Where to start making sense of the situation? Where to start if you were trying to get things sorted out? It seems like a cascade of troubles, all locked together. What if you were the woman and wanted to stop drinking – and you had ten hungry children with no food in the house and a partner you didn’t trust to look after them? How is it that there was enough alcohol to get very drunk on, but no food? Did anybody in the house have a source of income? What will they do now their car is wrecked? What will happen to the children – have they been split up? How is it the woman had to walk to the court, under the TV cameras, all on her own – does she have no one supporting her even in that small way? If she goes to prison, will the boyfriend leave? Will she lose the house? If she has a job, will she lose that too? If she goes to prison, will that help or hurt her and the kids in the long run? (Maybe it would be a way to dry out and get some more education; or maybe it would be terrifying and stressful and lead to further problems down the track.)

And what about the fact she’s Aboriginal? I think the journalist is not allowed to state that fact baldly, but look: the lawyer arranged for the matter to be heard at the Koori Court, so there we go.

The story is like a stereotype of the worst sort, except in this case it’s the actual situation. At the start of reading the article I was even thinking “I bet she’s Aboriginal…” and then when it was confirmed I felt terrible: not only had I been racist and prejudiced, but those things have just been reinforced.

I really wish some journalist would follow the story up and put things into a larger context. The family can’t have been in such a state because they’re Aboriginal – except that yes, maybe that is partly the reason: generations of poverty? ongoing racism? I don’t know, which is the point. I would like to know how a family ends up on the side of a road in a wrecked car in the middle of the night, and what could happen next.

Sunshine

Two things:

1. This morning was sunny, and, as far as I can remember, that’s only happened on two or three days this month; and the same thing happened in February. I usually wouldn’t notice such things and I actually prefer clouds and rain, but I’ve been looking after lots of house plants for my parents and I’ve got a growing collection of succulents and bromeliads in pots, so every time it’s sunny in the morning I need to take lots of them out to the deck – they need the milder morning sun and also the deck is where I water them (until the water floods out the bottom of the pots, so it can’t be done indoors). This is probably a tough climate for the succulents, I’m now realising. They probably don’t get enough sun over summer and autumn because that’s the wet season here, and even when it’s not raining, it’s often cloudy.

2. There are too many sad and awful stories in the news headlines today. I didn’t read the articles, only skimmed the headlines, but that was bad enough. There were articles about violence and women-hating laws and animal cruelty and just… terrible, awful things that you wouldn’t want to read about, so I didn’t. But I wish, on days like this, when there’s a rush of these stories, that there was a way to remind ourselves that the terribly bad things are aberrations – that’s why they seem so terrible. If they were normal and the whole world was as bad as the headlines might imply, none of these stories would have made it into the news.

So, in a way, the selection of news stories is a bit like sunshine, throwing deep shadows behind only the things that stick out, making them show up with stark contrast and highlights. They’re not the background or the foundation or the stuff of which the world is made; they’re just the things that stick out.

Or something. I don’t know. I need to do four or five hours of mowing now (if it doesn’t rain, and it might). That’s going to drive all thoughts from my head, so here endeth my philosophising for the day.

News of the world

I get a feed of ABC News articles:
http://www.abc.net.au/news/feed/51120/rss.xml
and thought that would keep me up-to-date.

But it didn’t! It doesn’t! I only just found out (from some other source) that Demi Moore and What’sHisName split up – months ago!

I know that’s an event doesn’t qualify as world news, and certainly doesn’t qualify as Australian news, but I think it is news. I can imagine a scenario where someone might say, “Did you hear about Demi Moore?”, and I would be saying, “No. What?” because I hadn’t heard the news, therefore and thusly illustrating the point that I think it is “news”, of a sort.

It’s just interesting. I wonder how news organisations choose their subject matter.