I visited my parents and watched a ton of local news. Here's what I learned.

For many of us, being at our parents' house for a visit means exposure to things outside of our daily routine.

For me, it meant watching the nightly television news — something I rarely do, which makes me a statistical minority in the United States.

Every night, like clockwork, the news was on at 11 o’clock, bringing a melange of information right into the living room. Weather, sports, and traffic advisories peppered with seasonally-focused segments, broken up into easy-to-digest pieces that were teased to the point of saturation. This is not how I or my generation get the news. But it is how many — in fact, most — Americans get it.


During that time, I saw the following pieces:

  • A health report on the trend of “wine moms” and how “mommyjuice culture” can “turn dangerous.”
  •  Numerous pieces about shopping and how to get the best deals from retailers.
  •  An interview with an immigrant family who were celebrating “bittersweet” time with family, due to the looming potential of deportation under President Trump.
  • A short piece about concussions in youth football players, followed closely by an in-depth injury report from the local professional football team.
  •   Extensive coverage of a 92-year-old woman who was mugged by a couple.

There was little news about matters which directly impacted the daily lives of viewers , nothing about the state legislature or city or county policies, and little about Congressional decisions. Those stories were covered on the station’s website, though they trailed behind weather and seasonal stories in popularity.

The underlying tone the pieces was consistent: The world is not what you think it is, and it’s not what how you remember it from when things were good (whenever that was).

Crime is getting worse. Modern trends are necessarily worse than older ones. And at the end of the day, the best way to solve your problems is not to vote, write your lawmakers, or get involved, but instead, to buy something.

The absence of policy discussion also carried a clear message: “Politics” isn’t as relevant as a carjacking or murder that occurs three states over. “Politics” does not impact your commute, your sports viewing, or your weekend plans. “Politics” happens in Washington, D.C., and nowhere else.

Our dinner table conversations over the weekend, in many ways, reflected the worldview presented by the news. While talking about events of the world, sentiments ranging from “everything is a scam” to “the world seems like a more dangerous place” were not only common, they elicited nods of agreement.

It’s not difficult to draw the connection between local news and its viewers' opinions, both in my own anecdotal home experience and in the broader state of of our national dialogue.

Though there is copious, reasonable concern about “fake news” and ultra-partisan misinformation shared on social media, television news remains the primary source for millions of Americans.

Not only do people watch their local TV news, they trust it and find it relatively centrist or objective — local news is, to many Americans, the opposite of fake news.

TV news programs are, statistically, viewed as a highly believable, trustworthy source of news. Viewers who tend to shun sites like Breitbart or US Uncut still largely find their local affiliate to be a source they can trust.

But here's the thing: It's not. In addition to the standard human interest pieces (like the “wine mom” segment), which often seek to cash in on popular ideas, local TV news tends to rely on stock subjects like the weather, traffic, local sports, and of course, crime.

And it’s in crime reporting that many of local news’ problems lie, particularly with regard to how the worldview of the average viewer is shaped.

Journalism students in Louisville who tracked local news coverage found that “over half (52 percent)” of one station’s 6 p.m. news segments were about crime. And while this has almost certainly added to the perception that crime is increasing in general, the way that crime is covered makes the picture painted by local news even more harmful and inaccurate.

For example, there’s a documented pattern of biased representation of marginalized communities in local TV news. Beginning in the late 1990s, a sizable body of research was developed, demonstrating that people who watch local TV news are likely to see Black or Brown people committing crimes in disproportionate numbers, creating a culture of fear and suspicion among white people.

This extends into TV news, too. Former Trump surrogate Boris Epshteyn’s “Terror Tracker,” which is run on local news stations across the country as well as hosted on their websites, presents “terrorism” as the sole purview of individuals from the Middle East. Similarly, TV news tend to cover terrorist attacks perpetrated by Middle Eastern individuals more heavily, leading to an outsized fear of Brown terrorists — and a willingness to act on it.

This means that viewers who flip on the news to see straightforward, unbiased reporting aren’t getting what they think they’re getting.

Instead of seeing a snapshot of breaking news and local and world events, they’re being served a dish that is disproportionately heaped with crime, fear, and racial bias. And they trust that it’s not only true, but that that’s all there is to know.

And then they absorb that misinformed fear, and they act on it.

Granted, many professionals who work for local TV news stations produce essential, thorough reporting. The issue, though, is with the industry itself. Television news stations owned by conglomerates exist for the sole purpose of generating revenue. There is money to be made in fear, salacious details, gore, feel-good news that confirms existing power structures, and othering. There is little money to be made in nuance, disruption, or discomfort.

Of course, none of this is new. Despite hand-wringing from older generations about the days of Murrow and “just-the-facts” journalism, this has always been the case.

In local TV news, the old adage remains as instructional as it ever was: If it bleeds, it leads. Triteness wins. Stereotypes win. Single-dimensional judgment wins.

But the misinformed influence of local news isn't unavoidable — it just requires news consumers to change their behavior.

That might mean abstaining from sharing stories from local news stations that are owned by powerful conglomerates or ceasing to watch the nightly news.

It might mean taking steps to encourage advertisers to avoid buying time on those stations and supporting local journalism that isn’t attached to a larger corporation and doesn’t take part in questionable coverage — whether that’s a nonprofit model or a for-profit outfit that actively pursues more diverse, comprehensive coverage of issues.

It might mean talking to your family about where they go for their news and where else they might consider.

It also might mean larger, more systemic changes, like reforming campaign finance laws to cap spending on TV news ads and voting for lawmakers who support stronger consumer protections against monopolies at the federal level.

Fake news absolutely presents a threat to information and the education of the American voting body. But real news, willfully misapplied or wrongfully deployed, is just as much a danger.

As part of our collective hunt for greater media literacy, it's important to look to the more innocent, more trusted outlets, as well, and ask what is (and is not) being fed directly into our homes and how it makes us see the world.

This story is excerpted from the original essay on Medium, and is reprinted here with permission.

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Should a man lose his home because the grass in his yard grew higher than 10 inches? The city of Dunedin, Florida seems to think so.

According to the Institute of Justice, which is representing Jim Ficken, he had a very good reason for not mowing his lawn – and tried to rectify the situation as best he could.

In 2014, Jim's mom became ill and he visited her often in South Carolina to help her out. When he was away, his grass grew too long and he was cited by a code office; he cut the grass and wasn't fined.

France has started forcing supermarkets to donate food instead of throwing it away.

But several years later, this one infraction would come back to haunt him after he left to take care of him's mom's affairs after she died. The arrangements he made to have his grass cut fell through (his friend who he asked to help him out passed away unexpectedly) and that set off a chain reaction that may result in him losing his home.

The 69-year-old retiree now faces a $29,833.50 fine plus interest. Watch the video to find out just what Jim is having to deal with.

Mow Your Lawn or Lose Your House! www.youtube.com

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The world officially loves Michelle Obama.

The former first lady has overtaken the number one spot in a poll of the world's most admired women. Conducted by online research firm YouGov, the study uses international polling tools to survey people in countries around the world about who they most admire.

In the men's category, Bill Gates took the top spot, followed by Barack Obama and Jackie Chan.

In the women's category, Michelle Obama came first, followed by Oprah Winfrey and Angelina Jolie. Obama pushed Jolie out of the number one spot she claimed last year.

Unsurprising, really, because what's not to love about Michelle Obama? She is smart, kind, funny, accomplished, a great dancer, a devoted wife and mother, and an all-around, genuinely good person.

She has remained dignified and strong in the face of rabid masses of so-called Americans who spent eight years and beyond insisting that she's a man disguised as a woman. She's endured non-stop racist memes and terrifying threats to her family. She has received far more than her fair share of cruelty, and always takes the high road. She's the one who coined, "When they go low, we go high," after all.

She came from humble beginnings and remains down to earth despite becoming a familiar face around the world. She's not much older than me, but I still want to be like Michelle Obama when I grow up.

Her memoir, Becoming, may end up being the best-selling memoir of all time, having already sold 10 million copies—a clear sign that people can't get enough Michelle, because there's no such thing as too much Michelle.

Don't like Michelle Obama? Don't care. Those of us who love her will fly our MO flags high and without apology, paying no mind to folks with cold, dead hearts who don't know a gem of a human being when they see one. There is nothing any hater can say or do to make us admire this undeniably admirable woman any less.

When it seems like the world has lost its mind—which is how it feels most days these days—I'm just going to keep coming back to this study as evidence that hope for humanity is not lost.

Here. Enjoy some real-life Michelle on Jimmy Kimmel. (GAH. WHY IS SHE SO CUTE AND AWESOME. I can't even handle it.)

Michelle & Barack Obama are Boring Now www.youtube.com

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via EarthFix / Flickr

What will future generations never believe that we tolerated in 2019?

Dolphin and orca captivity, for sure. They'll probably shake their heads at how people died because they couldn't afford healthcare. And, they'll be completely mystified at the amount of food some people waste while others go starving.

According to Biological Diversity, "An estimated 40 percent of the food produced in the United States is wasted every year, costing households, businesses and farms about $218 billion annually."

There are so many things wrong with this.

First of all it's a waste of money for the households who throw out good food. Second, it's a waste of all of the resources that went into growing the food, including the animals who gave their lives for the meal. Third, there's something very wrong with throwing out food when one in eight Americans struggle with hunger.

Supermarkets are just as guilty of this unnecessary waste as consumers. About 10% of all food waste are supermarket products thrown out before they've reached their expiration date.

Three years ago, France took big steps to combat food waste by making a law that bans grocery stores from throwing away edible food.According to the new ordinance, stores can be fined for up to $4,500 for each infraction.

Previously, the French threw out 7.1 million tons of food. Sixty-seven percent of which was tossed by consumers, 15% by restaurants, and 11% by grocery stores.

This has created a network of over 5,000 charities that accept the food from supermarkets and donate them to charity. The law also struck down agreements between supermarkets and manufacturers that prohibited the stores from donating food to charities.

"There was one food manufacturer that was not authorized to donate the sandwiches it made for a particular supermarket brand. But now, we get 30,000 sandwiches a month from them — sandwiches that used to be thrown away," Jacques Bailet, head of the French network of food banks known as Banques Alimentaires, told NPR.

It's expected that similar laws may spread through Europe, but people are a lot less confident at it happening in the United States. The USDA believes that the biggest barrier to such a program would be cost to the charities and or supermarkets.

"The logistics of getting safe, wholesome, edible food from anywhere to people that can use it is really difficult," the organization said according to Gizmodo. "If you're having to set up a really expensive system to recover marginal amounts of food, that's not good for anybody."

Plus, the idea may seem a little too "socialist" for the average American's appetite.

"The French version is quite socialist, but I would say in a great way because you're providing a way where they [supermarkets] have to do the beneficial things not only for the environment, but from an ethical standpoint of getting healthy food to those who need it and minimizing some of the harmful greenhouse gas emissions that come when food ends up in a landfill," Jonathan Bloom, the author of American Wasteland, told NPR.

However, just because something may be socialist doesn't mean it's wrong. The greater wrong is the insane waste of money, damage to the environment, and devastation caused by hunger that can easily be avoided.

Planet

The world is dark and full of terrors, but every once in a while it graces us with something to warm our icy-cold hearts. And that is what we have today, with a single dad who went viral on Twitter after his daughter posted the photos he sent her when trying to pick out and outfit for his date. You love to see it.




After seeing these heartwarming pics, people on Twitter started suggesting this adorable man date their moms. It was essentially a mom and date matchmaking frenzy.

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