New news

This week was a week for news of the depressing kind, both nationally and locally (at least for me the reporter). I covered two murder trials, yesterday and today, and watched Facebook users disseminate post after post about the Boston marathon bombing. This week was a week of firsts, or first takes, fresh takes on news and the business of producing news with a criminal bent.

With any major disaster or criminal act that makes headlines, the inevitable always happens: updates, stories, articles, or spots from news organizations that almost always contain kernels of incorrect facts purported to be truth and the shallowness of a story a reporter isn’t able or allowed to take the time to really give it what it needs — double-checking the facts and a little bit of depth.

It’s like the version of news we receive is on crack, steroids, or speed, and I think most news organizations feel pressure to get it out the fastest, to break it first, to give readers that first taste of something important. I don’t blame the news or the reporters or even the editing staff. I do however blame technology and because of it, our (me, you, everyone’s) need for instantaneous satisfaction — even if it means it’s wrong.


Are we really at the point where two sentences equals a story? Two sentences is nothing, it tells nothing, it gives a taste of the bare minimum and satisfies a nasty habit that takes all the fun out of story-telling or consuming a story. There’s no nuance, there’s no weaving a story, there’s no talent to it and it’s hard to get it right.

In fact everyone, anyone, can do that with a twitter account and a smart phone, which is why people continue to say journalists are on their way out, journalism is a dying art, news is slanted and incorrect, I don’t trust any of it.

And yet, here we are Facebooking away, staring at blips of thought on a computer screen, anxiously awaiting news of the short kind. And those news organizations are out there, giving us exactly what we want, and telling us their reporting is sub-par, that they haven’t had a chance to really look into it and may have to correct what they’re initially reporting at a later time.

And they did.

NPR did and they are still doing it. Three people died, not two. And the same thing happened with the Sandy Hook Elementary Shooting. The numbers were different at every news organization you turned to. I don’t understand, is it so hard to just wait? To get it right the first time and every time. Isn’t that what we’re here for?

To report the truth accurately.

To tell the story that needs to be heard, not the one we’re asked for.

I think we’ve forgotten.


Worth the car-time

One hour north of Santa Maria is where my journey started, where I took the Morro Bay exit off the four-lane Highway 101 and ventured toward the two-lane, curvaceous Highway 1. After 10 miles of anticipation, I hit the coast and saw the beige of a long beach out my window. Out the other, huge spendy houses and tourist-trap restaurants streaked by. After that, a meander through hilly pastures, cows, and signs that shouted “COASTAL ACCESS” with arrows that pointed down dirt-roads, led me to Cambria and San Simeon, where the cliffs and beaches begin to fight each other for ocean-front property and Big Sur looms — not visible, but in the distance stated on a highway sign.


Up and down and side-to-side the road started to move as I left the last sign of civilization behind me and orange poppies began making their token appearances on California’s coastal cliff sides. I know, maybe it’s too poetic, but that’s how I felt when I was driving. It’s like the more I wound the wheel and the more I alternated between the gas pedal and the brake, the further away I moved from whatever it was I needed a break from. The coast took over and it became exactly where I wanted to be, and my mind fell away and left me weightless.

At this point the trip was a few weeks ago, and what it was, was a weekend camping meetup with a friend of mine. Big Sur was the halfway point between her and I, and what a place to spend a couple of days. As you drive north, the coast  comes at you in phases. After the poppies start, the hills began to roll again. Indian paintbrushes, silver lupine, and other flowers I don’t know the names for popped in and out of view in front of me, and lush green reached out and touched the crumbling cliffs that dropped off into the sand.

Signs for vista points lined the side of the highway, and eventually the one I was waiting for stood out brown and white, warning drivers that elephant seals would soon come into view. I, of course, pulled off the road too early, which is something I tend to do when I don’t know exactly where I’m going. But lucky for me there was some species of seals there and a white heron stalking the water with that jilted bird-like gait.

Big Sur heron

The next vista point turn-off was where the real seal party was though, and every tourist on Highway 1 that Saturday knew it. The parking lot was full, a vendor was selling plastic elephant seal water bottles, and a state parks ranger person was roaming around. A fence lined the cliffs around the beach so nobody could do anything stupid, no matter how badly they wanted to. And it smelled like fish breath. Big beasts rolled around groaning, slapping at each other, and sunning themselves.


Although I still don’t believe they were elephant seals, I’ve since been told that they were. They didn’t look big enough and their noses were short and delicate, not the flubbery hanging jowls I associate with the elephants, but they were loud and stinky all the same. That was the first stop on my drive north. Next up was construction, traffic, and more cliffside views of the sunny ocean…not a bad way to spend a Saturday morning.