CBS Evening News, on Sunday March 18, 2014, spent almost as much time covering the voting for the fate of the Crimea area in the Ukraine as it did in assessing the prospects presented by the basketball schedule for March Madness and that brought up the question of news value. Back in 1939, were newspaper readers anxious for facts about the first NCAA basketball tournament or were the front pages filled with details elaborating the esoteric aspects of America's foreign policy?
Most news broadcasts lately mention that a Soviet Naval base with great strategic importance is located in the province that includes the city of Sevastopol. We did not hear much background information and had to look it up. The Germans captured Sevastopol in WWII. It was retaken by the Soviet Army. The city was leveled during the fighting. A half a million Russians died in the struggle to control the region including the nearby city of Stalingrad.
To understand just how offensive Russians find Obama's medaling think how upset Americans would be if Putin told the American President that the battle field at Gettysburg could be improved starting with an urban development plan.
Putin's heavy handed manipulation of the region is inappropriate but it sure won't help matters if President Obama talks tough and gets into a "pissing match" with Russia. President Obama's greatest gift to the Republicans may be a revival of the Cold war but they will still hate him.
Since CBS will be broadcasting some of the games to determine the NCAA basketball champions and since Americans don't care much about what the ultimate consequences of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact (which was signed in 1939) will be; the coverage of the relative entertainment value of this year's sporting event might, in retrospect, seem like a good news judgment call.
Unfortunately, in 1939, the management at CBS assigned their star reporter, Edward R. Murrow, to cover international developments in Europe and not the history making first installment of the NCAA basketball championship which was won by Coach Howard Hobson's team from Oregon, when they beat Ohio State.
It doesn't seem likely that 75 years from now, extensive coverage of this year's March Madness will seem like a better news judgment call than some in-depth reporting about the history of Russia would provide but almost no one alive today will be able to live to see what is considered important old news in 2089.
Since all the speculation about what might have happened to the missing airliner seems amateurish and inept, we asked for and where granted an interview with a fellow who is on the board of directors at the Amalgamated Conspiracy Theory Factory.
When we asked him what really happened, he noted that the plane was presumed to have gone west into the Indian Ocean. "Is there a terrorist friendly destination in that direction?" We answered "Somalia." "If the radio and transponder were turned off, would the airplane crew have missed something if they strayed into restricted air space and were challenged?" We asked: "How could there be restricted air space in the middle of the Indian Ocean?" He smiled, shrugged, and said: "Just suppose that there was for the sake of this conversation." The columnist pantomimed shooting at something in the sky. Our expert witness paused for a moment or two and then asked: "If it was in restricted air space, would they let searchers and the press into the area under the restricted air space where the debris would fall?" We frowned and growled "Not bloody well likely." After another shrug and smile, he said: "Maybe they made it to Somalia and were given a safe haven for hijackers." Neither scenario would get much more than scant news coverage in the USA.
While most of the United States continued to suffer from a long hard winter, the St. Patrick's Day Parade in San Francisco was held while the Bay Area experienced balmy shirtsleeve weather. Would conservative TV networks want to run a feature story that implies global warming is a fête accompli or would they rather focus their audience's attention on the apparent contradiction a harsh winter presents?
The contrast aspect of the warm weather in San Francisco while cities back east struggled with snow removal problems was virtually stonewalled by the news media.
Isn't it curious that in the land that venerates a Free Press, criticism of journalism has virtually disappeared? Would A. J. Liebling find that amusing?
American news media seems perfectly content to ignore the Fukushima clean up and any concomitant impact that disaster has had on the environment.
The third week in March of 2014 may be used by future historians to designate when the America's Free Press went flat line and marked the end of an era.