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Vol 19|No 7| May|2023

© J. McKenzie

The other (unmentioned) America

by Jamie McKenzie
(about author)
I am no Pollyanna, but while working security for various sports events and concerts recently I was startled into thinking there is another America unmentioned by the media. When you greet several thousand men, women and children filing into Coors Field to enjoy a baseball game, they bring lots of peanuts, water bottles and smiles with them but seem to leave politics behind.

In the past two seasons I cannot recall seeing a single political hat on these days, as most people are eager to show off their team loyalties by wearing the team’s hat and other gear. Every once in a while I see a hat proclaiming support for the Ukraine, but never one supporting Russia.

Baseball is, of course an especially American pastime with many decades of history and celebrations that pull us together for an afternoon or evening as we enjoy hotdogs, beer and Casey at Bat.
Oh, somewhere in this favoured land the sun is shining bright,
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light;
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout,
But there is no joy in Mudville—mighty Casey has struck out.
It seems like half the people at these games spend more time wandering, chatting and buying hotdogs than they do sitting in their seats watching the players. The overall mood is simply splendid and joyful.

Could there be a harmonious America lurking below the surface of recent news coverage which seems eager to divide us into red and blue states and focus on division and conflict rather than unity?

“I appreciate you!” is a phrase I hear hundreds of times each week as concert goers and baseball fans leave the event while I am standing at the exit bidding them goodbye. I have no idea who voted for Trump or Biden, yet I am fairly certain both sides are capable of grace and gentility. Eighteen months of this work have restored my faith in the goodness of my fellow citizens and given me at least some hope that the future may not be as bleak as some would have us fear.

Perhaps some wise leaders will emerge capable of tapping into this hidden goodness and point the way into a future that is built on cooperation and mutual respect rather than conflict and discord — "One nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

Why does this harmonious other America get so little attention from the media? Why did six different magazines and newspapers turn down this brief essay?
  • The New York Times
  • The New Yorker
  • The Washington Post
  • The Denver Post
Is the answer suggested by Don Henley's song “Dirty Laundry?”
Dirty little secrets, dirty little lies
We got our dirty little fingers in everybody's pie
We love to cut you down to size
We love dirty laundry

© J. McKenzie

What does ChatGPT have to say about this question?

Why do the media focus on divisions and the negative?

The media often focuses on divisions and negative news because they tend to be more attention-grabbing and generate higher levels of engagement among audiences. Humans are wired to pay more attention to potential threats and conflicts, so stories that highlight differences or conflicts between groups tend to attract more attention than stories about cooperation and consensus.

Moreover, media outlets are also driven by market forces and profit considerations. They need to attract viewers, listeners, or readers to generate advertising revenue, and negative news often drives higher ratings and clicks. Additionally, the 24-hour news cycle and the rise of social media have intensified competition for attention, leading some media outlets to prioritize sensationalism and conflict over accuracy and context.

However, it is important to note that not all media outlets focus on divisions and negative news. Many media organizations strive to provide balanced, nuanced coverage of events, and some prioritize positive stories and solutions-oriented reporting. It's up to the audience to seek out and support media outlets that align with their values and priorities.
A target of much media fearmongering itself, ChatGPT seems pretty wise when it comes to this issue, though it is sad she does not recognize that media is a plural, so the opening line should read "The media often focus."

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