Can the Exposure


This is not a slam against technology, particularly that having to do with communications, but sometimes technology can be the cause of those unintended consequences resulting from good intentions. Case in point: The ultra over-exposure of the president of the nation, as well as that of other officials. No, no one wants to regress to the days of the stagecoach or the pony express. Admittedly, too much time was consumed in those days in both the gathering and the presentation of news.

The introduction of the telegraph in the 19th century did much to remedy the situation, but, of course, involved only the transmission of dots and dashes that had to be translated into language, the words then hand-set for printing on what now is thought of as hopelessly slow presses, but which in those days were considered as technological marvels. The invention of the linotype and flat-bed press greatly reduced the time factor, but allowed for the reproduction of no pictures.

The presses in use today, as well as the methodology involved in printing has accustomed everyone to the expectation of near instantaneous presentation of news from around the world on a daily basis, sometimes even more frequently. Pictures are not only available practically as soon as they are taken, but may appear in color and with a sharpness that is almost unbelievable for its definition.

The advent of radio early last century made it possible for the human voice to be heard everywhere in the country, giving the listeners at least an idea of how someone they couldn't see sounded. The "fireside chats" of President Franklin Roosevelt during the depression-plagued 30s and the war years of the 40s readily come to mind. Even at that, the broadcasts didn't occur overly often (30 of them during the 12-plus years of FDR's presidency), though his picture was available in newspaper and magazines, and his actions on newsreels at the movies. Radio news programs, as such, were nowhere near as comprehensive as those of today.

The advent of television in the 40s, but actually expanded to universality in the 50s, is the technological marvel that has changed the complexion of newsgathering and news-presenting. It brought the Vietnam conflict into the living-room every evening, for instance. Just the news element alone was sufficient to regiment the thinking of citizens about the war. Added to the reporting of the hard news were the efforts of the "talking heads," those who arrogated to themselves the position of being interpreters of the news, as well as those who commented on those interpretations. These efforts have sort of been amalgamated in today's TV approach, so that the reporters, besides reporting the news, interpret and comment upon it, the better, actually, to advance an agenda in many cases. This has been highly evident in recent years, as the major networks have been subjected to stiff competition by the cable networks, causing a sort of civil war of ideas, usually fought between so-called liberal and conservative installations, usually along democrat and republican party lines.

So…back to the original proposition. Enough exposure already! It has been said, and rightly so, that familiarity breeds contempt. This is the main reason there are regulations in the military forbidding officers from fraternizing with enlisted folks. It is a rare day on which the president does not appear in the news, either on the evening news programs or on a 24/7 basis with the cable operators. In individual states, the same is true with respect to governors and other high-profile officials. While it's important for the actions of these officials to always be under scrutiny, it's not important that citizens be virtually drugged/overwhelmed with especially visual/audible images that operate in a sort of "crying fire in a theater" type of atmosphere, the result of which is the seduction of the citizen into a "ho-hum" attitude, not to mention that the official becomes just another "one of the boys" or some kind of entertainer, inevitably not to be taken too seriously.

Having surrogates conduct press conferences on a daily basis is a mistake unless there actually is something of interest to be discussed. Also, it would be well to limit TV coverage, since officials are more likely to "ham it up" before the cameras than before just a microphone or a bunch of reporters taking notes and/or operating their tape recorders. Since politicians, almost of necessity (at least according to them), are in some form of acting when in their appearances before the public, this fakery is enhanced by the presence of cameras.

The president would do well to appear once every week or so in an unscripted press briefing of a predetermined length to make statements and take questions, but he should never listen to the lectures of reporters or answer claims made by "anonymous sources" within the government. Cameras should not be present at all the briefings. Whether it sounds democratic or not, there should be an aura around the president, especially, that encourages the perception of a recognizable gap between him and the public. He is NOT one of the boys…he is the president…not a king, of course, but that man who is set aside as the Leader, and not approachable in any casual way except during the times when he chooses to be. Listening to him talk is much more preferable than watching him talk. Proof of this is seen in the body language and the voice inflections of the "news anchors," who make their point by the way they choose to present the news - ridicule, skepticism, disbelief, accusation, etc.

The celebrity interview is a damnation and the official, especially the president, should never participate in one. It is abundantly obvious that the well-heeled interviewers, besides trying to advance their own networks' agendas at the expense of the official, are also seeking to advance their own ambitions. The "gotcha" thing is all important, or maybe the effort to expose an emotional weakness (a tear or two, perhaps). In any case, the official should never expose a family member, even a spouse, to these silly interviews designed supposedly to prove that the official is actually quite human. It's doubtful that what the president eats or when he goes to bed or what he's reading or what kind of a tree he would like to be in a botanical setting is of any genuine interest to the public, which is not as voyeuristic as the elite news people think it is.

So…enough already. Keep those cameras away from the White House whenever the president and his party are boarding or alighting from the presidential helicopter. That's not news, the president and spouse holding hands or chasing the dog or waving to whomever. Confine the reporters to the press areas, discouraging them from making idiots of themselves by shouting at the president, who would be foolish to take them seriously anyway. In short, less is more in this case, and would add a great deal of lost dignity to the office.