Sunday, March 14, 2010

When Too Much News Gets to be Too Much

It's a sad reflection on a writer to go a month without posting a single new sentence on her blog. It's not that there's been a dearth of ideas or issues for me to comment on. There have been too many: Like the professor-turned-alleged-murderer in Alabama who long ago left the Boston area but who's remained a constant story in local weeklies and dailies lately, as if her life among us connected us to the tragedy.

Or the other horrendous earthquake in Chile which happened only a month after Haiti's. Or the more recent news of the first woman in Academy history to win an Oscar for best director—of a war movie, no less. Or the unthinkable massacres between Muslims and Christians in Nigeria, a story largely off the radar of most news outlets, its details so grim that they seem to get bumped instead for coverage of, say, a Utah senator's resignation over a sex 'scandal' that happened 25 years ago. Not to mention the story of another actor overdosing on prescription drugs, or that of a California straight-A high school senior murdered, the ubiqutious health care debate, or the cooking classes that have seen an increase in enrollment because of the recession. The landscape of news this past month has been strange indeed.

And to be honest, sometimes it's too much too take in. With so many stories—of terrible, inspiring or absurd news—so accessible to us each day, I confess that the glut leaves my thinking fragmented. These aren't new issues in humankind—it's just that we know about them now instantly, thanks (or not) to the Internet. And that can feel overwhelming, to the point of leaving a writer clueless of which story to respond to, her brain almost frozen like a statue.

But one recent story (I came across in the print version of my local paper) is finally worth noting, a model piece of reporting that simply and patiently told a story I needed to hear. It lifted me out of the paralyzing blur of the media to remind me of one simple truth: families still make room for their elderly members, quite literally by building new rooms on their houses. It had dignity, compelling writing, and mostly, staying power, the kind of story that makes you stop and actually reflect, the kind I think we all could use more of. It's worth a read for that reason alone—to stop and reflect—and I hope you will: In Peabody, In-Law Aparments Popular.

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