Highlights from Hair Balls
Journalists are really fond of writing about stories that went underreported every year. Too often, however, they forget to remind us all that those critical stories that went without needed coverage did so because stories with little merit wound up filling the airwaves and pages of newspapers.
Unfortunately, the old axiom "If it bleeds, it leads" is part of the way news gets reported. The general public likes its news served up with a side of scandal, a dash of crazy and heaping piles of celebrity. With 24-hour news networks struggling to fill time, it creates a recipe for some really awkward moments and seriously overblown stories.
Two thousand twelve was no different. As usual, the media spent way too much time on stuff that didn't really matter and the public ate it up (cough, bacon shortage, cough). From cliffs made of money to crowned fetuses to zombies — yes, zombies — the news media gave us plenty of overhyped lowlights this year. Here are our top ten.
10. OH MY GOD! WOMEN LIKE PORN!
When 50 Shades of Grey, the softcore BDSM novel, started selling faster than the Bible, every news outlet from the newsstand to the Today show had grown adults giggling like schoolchildren. Yes, America, chicks dig sex, too, and many even like it a little on the naughty side, as if this were a revelation. 50 is practically PG-13 compared to Anne Rice's (written under the pseudonym A.N. Roquelaure) Sleeping Beauty Trilogy, which would make a dominatrix blush, and that was released in 1983, the era of Reagan and the Moral Majority.
9. The Royal Baby
In 2011, we had a royal wedding and Pippa's ass in a dress. In 2012, Pippa's backside was still with us, and now so is a royal fetus. We in the states don't have quite the flair for the dramatic and salacious when it comes to tabloids that the Brits do, but the news of a royal bun in the oven blew up the gossip rags and mainstream news outlets in the colonies. Since his/her royalness will be born in 2013, we will get to read ceaseless stories about Kate's maternity clothing and Vegas betting odds on baby names. Joy.
8. Lance Armstrong Steroids Scandal
Let's be honest, it's cycling. Yes, Armstrong is the rock star of the sport — the Tiger Woods of the bike — but it's still a sport with an EXTREMELY limited following and one race a year the average person has even heard of. Frankly, if his alleged steroid use did nothing more than raise millions of dollars for cancer research and piss off the French, I say win-win.
7. Donald Trump is an Idiot
Do we really need any more stories that remind us this blowhard exists? From his failed attempts at running for president to his constant appearances on Fox to discuss Obama's birth certificate to his Twitter outbursts on election day, no one screams, "I need attention!" more than Trump. Can we please stop giving it to him in 2013?
6. Facebook IPO Debacle
When Facebook finally went public and didn't do nearly as well as expected, it seemed like everyone wanted to talk about it, including people who barely knew what an IPO was. The social-media giant is an easy target and more than a few people were thrilled to see Mark Zuckerberg fail at something for once. But beyond the big name, it wasn't a particularly interesting or relevant financial story, and it had no bearing on the social network's success, which continued unabated.
7. Superstorm Sandy Coverage
The storm that ate New York was devastating, make no mistake. It did tremendous damage and killed far too many people. But the all-hands-on-deck, frenzied, wall-to-wall coverage of a storm that would cause Gulf Coast dwellers to yawn with excitement — particularly given the lack of coverage of similar and worse storms that threaten places not named New York City — was a prime example of why media in that part of the country are so often criticized. I mean, what are you doing putting freaking Al Roker on the street in that mess? C'mon, man!
4. Tim Tebow in New York
There is no sports phenomenon that seems to make ESPN wet itself more than Tebow. By all accounts, the guy is a tremendous athlete and leader who simply can't play quarterback in the NFL. But, when he was traded to the Jets, all hell broke loose. Like Sandy, a media storm was descending on the Big Apple. But a funny thing happened when incumbent Mark Sanchez faltered. Coach Rex Ryan gave a big fat middle finger to everyone by skipping over Tebow in favor of a third-stringer. Tebow reportedly now wants to be traded. The saga continues and the four-letter network is thrilled.
3. Fiscal Cliff
Does the average American even know what the hell this is or what will happen if we go over it? The mere mention of the phrase sends pundits into apoplectic shock, yet now there's talk that even if January 1 rolls around with nothing done, there is still time to avoid any undue consequences to our economy. Perhaps it is the visual of tons of money just leaping off of a cliff that makes it so intriguing. Whatever the case, if I never hear the words "fiscal" and "cliff" in the same sentence again, it will be too soon.
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2. Zombie Apocalypse
This was sort of funny, clever even, until people on bath salts started eating the faces of anyone nearby. After that, legitimate media outlets, whose veteran anchors we assume were saying, "Oh, for fuck sake!" when they looked over the copy for the nightly news, were actually using the words "zombie apocalypse." I'm sure some local news team somewhere ran movie footage as part of their coverage package with the title of the film and "not actual zombies" at the bottom while Edward R. Murrow spun in his grave...assuming of course he's not...A ZOMBIE!!!
1. Mayan Calendar End of the World
If there was any clear winner this year, it was science. From the dead-on-accurate presidential polling from nerdy-pollster-turned-Internet-rockstar Nate Silver to the Billy D. Williams of science, Neil deGrasse Tyson, to the clever social networking of NASA, science was cool again. But still a whole bunch of crazy people believed the Mayan calendar ending signaled the end of the world. Science countered with, "You can't be serious because...no, seriously, you're joking, right?" December 21 came and went and, against all odds, we live on. Leading up to that fateful day, not a news outlet in the country didn't do something about Mayans and calendars and planets blowing up. It would have been funny if it weren't so head-shakingly ridiculous.