- The Washington Times - Monday, May 14, 2007

Alonzo Mourning and Etan Thomas sounded the proper chord in portraying the media as overly negative in a panel discussion on race and athletics at Morehouse College in Atlanta last week.

This accurate characterization of those who interpret and deconstruct the news has been around since the days of messengers being, literally, killed if the content was deemed unfavorable.

Spiro Agnew delivered one of the more famous lines on the disseminators of the news in calling them the “nattering nabobs of negativism,” as coined by then-speechwriter William Safire.

That apt description is no less true today, as Mourning and Thomas know only too well.

Flip on the television or radio or leaf through your favorite newspaper, and you are liable to come away with the sense that we will be fortunate to see another day.

If we do not end up succumbing to global warming, then the West Nile virus will get us.

If it is not the worry of Alar-treated apples, it is the worry of radon in your home.

You have heard or read of the housing bubble coming to our region?

As you know, a housing bubble has been imminent since 2004. Yet here we are, three years after the initial doom and gloom forecasts, still waiting on a massive drop in home prices across the region.

That is the media for you. Show the media an overwhelmingly positive development homeowners flush with cash because of staggering appreciation gains over a six-year period, starting in 1999 and the media will find a negative element in it.

Show the media a previously desolate stretch of urban landscape that has been transformed into a vibrant neighborhood and the media inevitably will dwell on the “displaced” and the jump in property taxes that are hard on those living on fixed incomes.

Part of the negativity is understandable.

Few news junkies turn to a media outlet looking to see a version of Mister Rogers saying, “It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood.”

No one would be riveted by a front-page newspaper headline that reads: “Sun Rises from the East Today.”

Conflict is an entertaining dimension of the human condition, whether the discord emanates from politics, business or sports.

That is not merely a notion endemic to newspaper editors and talk-show producers.

That is a uniquely human proclivity.

Friends rarely spend a long time discussing what is right with their small corners of the world. They often spend most of their time discussing what is wrong with their jobs, relationships, families and living spaces.

Being appreciative of all the good things in life is hardly an American characteristic.

Griping about this or that is an American birthright.

Mourning and Thomas suggest that athletes, and black athletes in particular, have an image problem because of a negative-obsessed media. That problem is perhaps overstated, if not off base, judging from the ever-growing popularity and profitability of sports.

The bad actions of a few hardly reflect on the whole.

Terrell Owens does not embody the NFL.

Americans instinctively understand that sports leagues, not unlike other enterprises, are bound to have a few bad citizens.

Predictably enough, members of the media extract all they can from the bad citizens, with no outlet singularly guilty. It is the collectivity of the media which now include bloggers that is excessive and often as a subtle as a bull horn.

It is getting so bad an NFL quarterback cannot even raise fighting dogs without every Tom, Dick and Mary in the media trying to determine the meaning of it all.

For better or worse, that is the marketplace today.

It has been said you could give a media type a front-row seat to a burlesque show and the person would find fault with the color of the entertainer’s garter belt.

An exaggeration, perhaps.

But the sentiment is on target.

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