Once again, I had reason this morning to be amazed by the inanity of the main stream media (aka MSM, as I’m learning in the parlance of my new job). As usual, the only time I am exposed to the MSM is at my gym, when I present an entirely captive audience. I am stuck in one place for at least half an hour, the screen is right in front of my face, the hypnotic subtitles drone by… Despite my best efforts to look elsewhere, I get sucked in pretty quickly. At least I choose the stairmaster in front of CNN instead of ESPN — I just won’t go that far, I’m sorry.

This morning, I figured that a little dose of CNN wouldn’t hurt, just to give my news diet a little variety. This week, I’m even more out of touch with the world than I usually am. I had company in town for the last nine days, so my life has been sucked into that strange time vortex which seems to happen whenever you either travel or have guests. Somehow, you feel as though time should stop along with your normal life, so when you go back to your regularly scheduled programming, no time will actually have elapsed. Right? Wrong! Turns out a lot happened during the time I was out of commission, so I’ve been busy catching up with the news.

As I sat there, sweating and stepping away, I was amazed yet again by the sheer frivolity of the stories they covered. On my drive home from the airport last night, I heard a piece on NPR about some independent news association complaining about the stories the media is focusing on in the presidential election. I completely agree — even after a week-long news hiatus, almost immediately I knew all about Sarah Palin’s pregnant teenage daughter and Obama’s lipstick and a pig comment.

I’m sorry, I’m a little confused. Is this a presidential election, or is it People magazine?

Even worse was the story CNN featured as part of their coverage about hurricane Ike. I’m trying to get caught up on what the storm actually damaged, the political ramifications, its effects on gas prices, etc. But what did CNN show? Always on the cutting edge of news reporting, they sent a reporter to a demolished amusement park in Kemah, TX. For the full duration of the segment, this woman walked around the damaged ferris wheel, described the destruction of the rollercoaster in excruciating detail, and repeatedly commented on how sad this place was without the laughter of children.

Um… hello? I’m sorry that this town has had one of its main sources of income destroyed. I also understand that you need to have a constant stream of new stories in order to hold peoples’ attention 24 hours a day. But could you maybe show me something real? There are people who live in these towns, people in pain, families and individuals that have had both their livelihoods and entire lives destroyed. And to inform me about this disaster, you’re showing me a tragically empty rollercoaster? Seriously?

Every time I watch the TV news, I get the weird feeling that I’m watching some kind of ongoing reality TV show. Oh here’s the inexperienced smooth-talking upstart, but can he beat the seasoned older man, full of wisdom and tragedy? Wait, now we have a beautiful woman on the scene! OMG! Did you see what she was wearing? And her daughter… oh, the scandal! Wait, look at this massive human tragedy, it’s destroyed — gasp! — an amusement park! Now cut to the scene of a train crash that killed thirty people, but oh wait! Season 12 of the OJ Simpson trial is on — clearly far more important.

Actually, scratch all of that. Truth is, I would much rather watch tonight’s episode of Project Runway than watch the news. At least on Runway it’s assumed that their drama is petty and fabricated for the benefit of the cameras, and the only thing at stake is which contestant Michael Kors will rip apart next. Call me an escapist if you like, I don’t mind. But I prefer my escapism pure, thank you, not with a badly tailored veneer of gravitas hung on it.

UPDATE: Sick of hearing about the economy yet again, this morning I turned my car radio to the BBC. Within five minutes, I learned the following things: a new Mozart piece has been rediscovered, worth $100,000; scientists have cataloged previously unrecorded forms of coral in Australia (plus I never realized just how amusing it is to hear someone with a British accent say “coral”); and Russia launched a test warhead capable of “putting a hole” into the US missile shield. Now that is what I call news!