Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Self-Imposed Media Blackout

On a Saturday afternoon back in 1978, I ran to the television set in the living room and switched over to Channel 9 from Steubenville (now WTOV, I think it was then called WSTV), and planted myself in the easy chair. It was the ritual I performed at that time every Saturday afternoon; it was time for All-Star Wrestling, hosted by Vince McMahon. Whatever happened to him?

But this one Saturday was different. Channel 9 happened to be a network affiliate (either NBC or CBS) and was carrying live coverage of something BIG going on. There was a crowd of thousands gathered around some building waiting in anticipation of something. Black smoke wafted out of the top of the building. It was significant. It was deliberate. A news person would occasionally chime in with a reminder that everyone needed to watch the black smoke, and see if it turned white. The whole world, it seemed, waited anxiously while a group of people called Cardinals (who were, oddly, neither birds nor baseball players) voted on a new Pope.

The whole world, that is, except for me. I wanted to watch wrestling, dammit! And these people, whoever they were, were keeping me from enjoying my Saturday afternoon. The broadcast was so long and boring that I would have rather been in school that day.

The College of Cardinals selected one of their number as Pope today. I missed the whole thing, and I am glad. In the age of the Internet, we can pick and choose our news sources as we please. In 1978, that thing was on every channel. I felt like I was being persecuted by the Catholic Church, at least for a few hours. Now I can watch what I want or (as I usually do) just not watch anything.

More interesting to me than the selection of the Pope -- since I am not Catholic, and I don't really care who the Pope is -- is how the media will react in the days to come. Even though I generally can't relate to Benedict (Ratzinger) on the basis of religion, there is just something about him being German and conservative that calls out to me.

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