I grew up in a world with only 3 networks: ABC, CBS and NBC. The news came on around dinner time and was one-hour long… 30 minutes local + 30 minutes world. We had a late newscast that was 15-30 minutes depending on the station. And, while moving from childhood to adolescence, ABC started airing a late night news program. But that was it.
I don’t remember who did the ABC news (my folks were not ABC sorts of people). But I do remember listening to David Brinkley and Chet Huntley conclude each evening saying, “Good night David” followed by “Good night Chet.” I always thought how polite they seemed. And, of course, like millions of others, I knew the world was going to be okay when Walter Cronkite would say, “And that’s the way it is…” concluding with the day and date.
Back in those days the mantra newsWORTHY had some value. There were all sorts of tragedies in the country and around the world. Wars and skirmishes were always going on. Courts made decisions. Legislators at every level of government crafted bills, conducted investigations, and voted on new laws. Presidents had days filled with phone calls, meetings, speeches, and so forth.
But, at the end of the day, there were only 30 minutes to report it all, including anything from the weather, sports, or the world of entertainment. 30 minutes. Less than that once you paid the bills via commercials.
Editors earned their paychecks big-time! They spent hours reviewing news stories in order to choose what passed muster as newsWORTHY. Once their selections were made they had to carefully craft script so no time was wasted… there was not an “after the break” to return to a topic. 30 minutes. That’s all.
Things are different today. The local news in my town is still around dinner but is now 1-2 hours, depending on the station. The late news is 35 minutes minimum (1 of our stations has a 90 minute late newscast). All of them have 2-4 hours of morning news and at least a 30 minute mid-day news program.
The national evening news broadcasts are still about 30 minutes, but there are longer morning news shows, frequent short news blurbs, and several prime-time news programs.
In addition there are national and regional 24 hour news channels, all of which have web pages, podcasts, twitter feeds, facebook sites, and so forth.
If that were not enough, there are also channels for those other things… weather, sports (out the wazoo), and several so-called entertainment news channels!
In short, it doesn’t take all that much to be newsWORTHY anymore.
This, in part, explains why the troubles of Charlie Sheen have gotten so much press of late. While I don’t know Charlie Sheen (I do love the Hot Shots movies, as well as Major League – the 1st one… the funny one) I feel as though I know way too much about him.
I hear that Mr. Sheen has a history of addictions. Most of the reports I’ve stumbled across have focused on what appears as somewhat erratic behavior. The media loves that kind of stuff… at least the ratings that kind of stuff produces. It’s their business to succeed via ratings so I don’t really fault them (too much).
If you have read my book or much in this blog you already know that I’m a Church Health sort of guy. It’s not that I’m anti-Church growth… far from it. I just think growth is the consequence of health rather than the stimulator to health.
Because of this I find myself in conversations that go something like this:
“I hear you are all about Church Health.”
“Yeah, I guess you could say that.”
“That seems sort of a cop-out to me.”
“Really? How so?”
“Simple. You don’t have anything to count. You can talk ‘health’ until the cows come home and never do anything!”
The conversation is the quantitative verses qualitative debate. The argument goes, if you can’t count it, well, it doesn’t count!
Here’s my response: while you may not be able to count it, you can measure it. There are lots of ways to do so.
Now, back to Charlie Sheen.
One of the short reports I saw last week was a brief interview with Martin Sheen (the president from West Wing). Martin Sheen is Charlie’s dad. He is a well-known pacifist and political activist.
He is also a person of faith, who is active in his Roman Catholic tradition. When the interviewer pressed him with regards to his son (a bit rudely I might add), he looked into the camera and said, “Please pray for Charlie. People battling addictions need prayers.”
I had a measure-moment with God after that interview. Why did I wait until I saw and heard Martin Sheen look into a TV camera as a misty-eyed, broken-hearted dad and plead for people to pray for his son, before I started to pray for his son?
That’s a qualitative measurement of where I am on spiritual quest. It is most decidedly not where I want it to be. If I were where I want to be, I would be praying not just for Charlie Sheen, but I would be praying more for my family and friends who do not at this moment follow after Jesus, and for those who are bound by some addiction.
And, if I were praying more I would be living with my eyes wide open… my ears tuned clearly… my life responsibly reflecting the image of Jesus. It would change everything.
This is qualitative. It is a matter of spiritual health. It is measurable, as we live confessionally in the Church. It does count.