I’m not laughing

Sonali Kudva

Here’s the headline to a very brief article: “Congress wary of plain vanilla bank proposal.” The first line clarifies that “Congress is expected to reject President Barack Obama’s proposed mandate that banks offer customers ‘plain vanilla’ financial products, such as a 30-year fixed mortgage” (Associated Press, Sept. 22).

So would Congress have been less wary of the mandate if it offered strawberryÿor key lime-ÿflavored financial products? I don’t understand. Does Congress have something against vanilla? Do they prefer chocolate?

Could someone please explain to me when we moved from speaking plain English, to riddles, to ice-cream products? Is this what human communication is coming to?

Here’s another gem I picked up today: “A D.C. whodunit. Who leaked and why?” (Politico.com, Sept. 22). I’m not even going to come up with interpretations for that. Just to clarify though, this was the headline to an article on the most recent revelation of secret documents by someone in Obama’s administration. It was not in a book review or a medical thriller or anything. This was serious news analysis.

So it would appear then that drama is the newest gimmick for media presentation. Is this a new attempt to make serious things more palatable to the audience? If this is so, why not have more comedy? Maybe someone could present the daily news as a musical. That would be much more cheery than having to listen to yet another analyst drone on about (a) how the economy is improving, (b) how the economy is not improving and will continue to slide into a downward spiral or (c) an analysis of economic recessions in general.

Well, why doesn’t someone break into song about that? I’ll tell you why: it’s because the situation with the economy is more serious than that. More importantly – no one is laughing, no matter how big the pun.

As a reader, I’d like to be talked to not talked down to. There are people losing their jobs. There is a war going on. Yet somehow, the media appears to think that by making light of it, people are cheered somehow. So we’ve reached an age where comedians have asked questions that should have been asked by journalists, and journalists seem to want to exercise their funny bone. Has journalism really fallen so low that journalists imagine people want a laugh with their daily news? Well, that’s what cartoonists are for.

People do not need to be coddled from reality with the use of forced humor and bad puns. They want to know what is out there. They want more than the packaging and the humor. They expect facts from journalists. They know where to find humor.

As media consumers, it’s probably time to ask the news media to provide more news and analysis than a tickle to one’s funny bone. Less of the baby-speak, ice-cream-speak, whodunit-speak or whatever it is. We need more of the straight hard facts – in plain ‘vanilla’ÿEnglish.

Anybody agree?

Sonali Kudva is a graduate journalism student. Contact her at [email protected].