Bob Greene, a columnist for the Chicago Tribune back when Elizabeth and I met while living in the Windy City, had a theory about our government called the Student Council Theory. As he put it:
Briefly, the Student Council Theory states that the major players in Washington — the congressmen, the Cabinet members, the famous news commentators –are really nothing more than those kids who used to tape posters up in the hallways of their high schools, asking the rest of us to vote for them in the Student Council election. Not the Washington news commentators, of course; they didn’t run for the Student Council. No, they were the boys and girls who were deluded enough to think that what the Student Council did was significant, and who earnestly wrote news of the Student Council in the school newspaper. The only difference is that now the people in Washington are a little older, wear suits, and are nationally telecast.
There is a free local newspaper distributed at the major metro stops — the one in which I keep up with Kázmér és Huba — and in it today was a story about the price of transport tickets going up in January. The BKV board, over some strenuous objection from groups worrying about the effect on ridership it will have, has authorized a 7-10% price hike on tickets and passes.
Now, *that’s* a story that will affect a *lot* of folks — people around here work two jobs just to keep up, and their income definitely hasn’t gone up by 10% anytime recently.
But it was buried in the paper on page 18, well past the kind of irrelevant but officially newsworthy reportage that can be conducted from governmental and business press releases and the escapades of the rich, powerful and senseless.
You see, the folks who walk the corridors of power don’t walk there from a bus stop or a train station. So it’s not important to *them*.
And as I reflect on a lot of what we see in the news back in the US, especially at a local level, where all of the “school newspaper kids” are striving desperately to make it to the big time, it always puzzled me when an event that had genuine, grass roots interest would get a passing mention, but 5 or 6 folks with sandwich boards and a dozen puzzled workers eating lunch in a town plaza would get a precious minute or two on EyewitnessLiveDopplerNewsForYouAtFive that evening.
Which in turn basically explains the seismic shift in fortunes for most news gathering and broadcasting organizations since the rise of the internet. News, like history, is determined by those who write it, and the kids in the cafeteria are bolting for other sources.