I listened to NPR’s All Things Considered last night for the first time in a spell, and was surprised to hear how much of the program was devoted to Enron. If you watch tv news or read newspapers you’re probably surprised by my surprise, but since I get almost all my news online I can pick and choose what I want to read about, and I rarely want to read about Enron. In fact, I don’t know if any of my acquaintances really care about Enron either. Enron may well be the biggest news story in recent history that no one I know gives a rat’s ass about.
I’m not saying it isn’t a big story; it is, it’s huge. But there’s very little “new” in this “news”. Corporations give money to politicos? Rich guys get richer by swindling their own employees? Washington DC has ties to Big Business? Enron may be in the headlines because of the scale on the debacle, but the substance doesn’t seem to merit either the breathless reporting or the pretense that this kind of tomfoolery doesn’t happen all the time. The reporting on Enron reminds me of that neverending series of sharks attack “news stories” that America was treated to last year in August. There again a routine event (“This Just In: Sharks Bite People!!”) happened on a slightly larger scale (or not) and the press when apeshit.
Then, of course, September 11 rolled around and the media had to switch from 24/7 coverage of non-stories (Levy) and focus on actual news (war). And now that America is returning to normaltm, part of the normalization is going to be the media’s slow slide from real news to non-news. The Enron story is perfectly suited for this transition: scandalous enough to titilate, but still boring enough justify coverage.
There’s a silver lining, though: it now looks as if the Enron boondoggle has revived interest in the previously moribund issue of campaign finance reform. The House is slated to vote on a bill in the immediate future. Now that’s news, and a story I will be following with enthusiasm.