by Mark Scheinbaum
American Reporter Correspondent
Angel Fire, NM
Jan. 1, 2008
TOP 10 UNDER REPORTED NEWS STORIES OF 2007
ANGEL FIRE, New Mexico, Jan. 3, 2007 -- The major news outlets have spoken, and U.S. and international news consumers now know the "expert" view of the Top 10 News Stories of 2007. But they left out a few dozen major stories.
While concentrating on business and financial topics in recent years, I still harken to my journalistic youth, and cutting my teeth in the general news fields of United Press International and a few daily newspapers, so I'll share my own jaundiced view of 2007 with you.
First the caveat that all "top 10" lists be they for movies, sports plays, or news headlines are subjective and biased. They are not only in the eye of the beholder and writer but often in the eye of the owners, publishers, or sponsors of the writer. But the veteran reporter who now spends more time as a news consumer than news purveyor sometimes catches trends and stories not easily explained to readers and viewers or ignored outright by the press.
Here are my "top 10" under-reported yet significant stories of 2007. I make no distinction between domestic or international interest. If indeed "all news is local" then perhaps all important news is global:
The China Story: This year's top story is how the Peoples' Republic of China now permeates every aspect of life on the planet. Its own citizens are choked by record levels of pollutants; emerging nation consumers have access to more "stuff" at cheaper costs, and a decadent Communist apparatus allows tainted medicines, cosmetics, toys, tires, and other defective products to flood every consumer market on Earth.
2. The Decline of U.S. Influence: While the War in Iraq captures headlines, much of the world concentrates on personal wealth, environmental concern, economies grown on a weak U.S. Dollar and political, economic, and cultural role models outside of the United States. European commerce, Latin American music and art, Asian science and technology, even Israeli medical advances, all perhaps trumped by exploding financial influence of Dubai, Bahrain, and Qatar have made the United States, its people and ideals less important for former disciples of the American way of life.
3. Wireless Welfare: I watched three young Norwegian students, slumming as yacht crew members, sit in a café alongside the Panama Canal, each with their own Bluetooth and laptop. They checked their mail, chatted with friends, did their banking, and downloaded music. Every airport, every cell phone tower, every hotel lobby and coffee shop, is a mini-center of commerce, industry and communications. Older generations just don't get it. Lifestyles and business are now untethered, unplugged, unrestricted by borders, and uninhibited by government authority.
4. Get Over It:: Spawned by a consumer- and often self-centered youth culture, the mainstream media has not yet latched onto the "Get over it" philosophy, which has changed ethics and mores in cross-cultural settings. If you view yourself as "conservative" or "traditional" here is a value-neutral hint for the future: The war is over and you have lost. Regarding racism, sexism, gay rights, smoking prohibitions, tattoos, piercing any and all body parts, cohabitation for decades, lack of nationalism or patriotism, there is a global sweep that has now permeated all levels of decision-making that dictate: "Sorry you don't like it. Get over it. Move on. This is the way it is." Ummm. Don't believe it? Ask anyone under age 40.
5. Abortion Violence: The headlines cover political views on abortion. Yet four separate incidents of arson and/or other attacks on New Mexico abortion or Planned Parenthood Centers in recent months went virtually uncovered outside of the state. I recall similar incidents in the West Palm Beach area also garnered little statewide or national coverage. How many under-reported incidents of women seeking to exercise their legal rights in the face of mounting physical or emotional trauma go un-reported? In so-called "Catholic" countries organized religious influence has actually diminished; is violence in the name of religion in the United States a viable news story?
6. Infrastructure Commodities:: The popular press covers topics like gasoline and gold prices. The bigger story is the prices and implications of rising commodity costs for construction, transport and other infrastructure. Huge increases in cement, copper, steel, plywood, PVC pipe and heavy equipment are changing cost of living and housing prices around the world. In Panama the big news was the $5 billion-plus expansion project for the Panama Canal. Yet, when one economist sat down and totaled the new highways, public transport, water and electric grid, and other public service infrastructure expansion, the results were astounding. It is estimated that just in that one small nation of 3 million residents, all infrastructure expenditures in the next few years will exceed the bill for the Canal expansion by five times! Similar upgrades of roads, trains, airports, power plants, refineries, etc are happening around the world.
7. Death of Civility:: Teenagers in the supermarket drop the F-bomb at the cashier; sports stars' comments are "bleeped" routinely; generational respect in what remains of family units are often harsh, and constructive criticism is met with vicious and often vile rebukes. Cheating is acceptable. A lie is a means to an end. Etiquette and courtesy are politically incorrect in some circles. It's a tough, gelatinous story to report, so just place a hidden camera outside any public place with an open mic, and play it back for the audience.
8. The Mexican Criminal State: Most U.S. readers would never know that by many world criteria Mexico is a wealthy land. Systemic corruption which includes permissive enforcement of drug laws; mass murder of police; torture, detention or even death for U.S. law enforcement personnel; harassment, rape, and murder of Spring Break student visitors, is always wrapped in immigration coverage. Except for border states, there is rarely international coverage-even in the Spanish language media- of the raping of Mexican resources, the misdirection of attention away from domestic fraud and towards frontier problems, and neutralizing of government reformers and critics. In France, Germany, the USA, Argentina and elsewhere this would be widely pounded time and again in the press. Instead, Mexico is viewed as the "victim" of big, bad Gringos who want to dominate labor and industry at America's convenience, and then retire to Mexico in relative luxury.
9. The Dysfunctional U.S. Military: The Pentagon would have the world believe that the "all-volunteer" armed forces produce the best fighting men ever, and are the class of the world. This might be true statistically, but as GED, high school drop-outs, and more convicts are handed uniforms to fill recruitment quotas, the dirty little social secrets of the armed forces are rarely reported. Take the time to read the blogs and websites, and some of those in uniform may be among the most troubled, abused, uprooted, aimless, and dysfunctional of our young. There are many noted and exemplary exceptions. But week after week, I read the sad pleas from spouses, parents, in-laws and friends that together create a picture of kids from broken homes, abusive parents, multi-generational divorces, alcoholism, and drug addiction, depression, or even recruits with severe emotional issues who are handed weapons and ammo. Even before Post Traumatic Stress and a record number of serious wounds, these were troubled young people fighting for social stature, dignity, income, and often to escape from their past. A gross exaggeration? Perhaps. But worth exploration? Definitely.
10. The End of Amateur Sports: Many of us grew up outraged by college bribery scandals, and college recruitment violations. Mature people look and learn and change their minds. Sportswriters and editors need to grow up as well. All sports are professional. Pay college athletes a salary for four years, and provide them with tuition remission for a total of eight years to get a degree. If they cut class and never get a degree, fine. They exist to raise money for other sports, make alumni proud, add to the institution's reputation, and even raise awareness and funding for academic programs. Rarely are these players students. Rarely do they care about being students. End the farce. Educate the few who are sincere. Promote and polish the tiny percentage headed for the pros, and treat the majority of athletes like the paid entertainers they are.