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Shnay: Fast-moving news cycle leaves some behind

Updated: May 21, 2014 6:10AM



A friend, John, came up to me the other day and asked a question, the answer to which can be easily found.

“Google it,” I said.

“I can’t. I don’t have a computer,” John replied.

“It is broken, then?”

“I never had one,” John said. “I don’t even have a cellphone, and I finally broke down and bought a television set last year, but I still watch programs in black and white.”

All this was spoken with a tinge of pride in his voice.

Despite his obvious lack of staying current with technology, John is a not an evil person so I cautioned him to lower his voice. The National Security Agency is everywhere, I thought.

They could classify John as an alien being, give him a one-way ticket to Area 51 and dress him in a suit with sleeves that button in the back.

He could also face removal to some remote region whose name ends in “zkhan” and join all those other Americans deported because they had gardens in their back yard but never grew tomatoes.

When I asked how he gets his information, John said he reads newspapers.

And that’s why John did not hear about that “police standoff” at a house in Park Forest a couple of weeks ago until he picked up his paper the next morning and found a small story that said village police had responded for several hours to what turned out to be a prank call phoned in to Illinois State Police.

Because John did not see a few seconds of video of officers in dark clothing milling around an unlit street that was featured on the 10 p.m. news programs the night before, he never knew what was allegedly going on.

The “standoff” ended about 10:30 p.m., or about the time the late-night talk shows began. It was said that the TV stations made some sort of explanation of the hoax, either later that night or early the following morning.

It was not seen by many who were concerned or affected by the incident. A few hoped that a five-second explanation could be made on the next day’s 10 p.m. news programs as a closure of sorts.

If such an update occurred, we must have blinked an eye and missed it — perhaps because the 24-hour “news cycle” does not allow for either reflection or correction. If this is the world we inhabit, perhaps John should be looked at as a visionary, not as someone who might as well live in a cave.

Grandson Andrew put the question of information another way when he held up his “obsolete” 3-year-old cellphone and said there’s more information he can access from his phone than is in the Encyclopedia Britannica.

I told him that what he does with what he learns is what really counts, but he was too busy checking his phone messages to hear me.

The “standoff” story also raised a lot of flak on blogs and Facebook pages that usually starts with a litany of woes about “what’s happening to Park Forest.”

Max (the man who recently wanted to paint all the potholes in the village with luminous yellow paint) said this kind of response is self-defeating.

“Those gripers gripe me,” he said. “They want a town without crime, with low taxes, great schools and a shopping center where they can get everything, pay little and have a reserved parking space.

“Ain’t no such thing,” an ungrammatical Max said. “There is always stuff going on. The only place in Illinois where you get three meals a day, don’t have to pay taxes, don’t have pothole problems, don’t have to mow your back yard and are surrounded by people who check on you every night is in (prison). And who wants to live there?”



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