I never really enjoyed watching television news. I remember viewing the regular nightly news program up north when I was a child. Mom and dad sent us to bed every night just as CBC’s 10 o’clock “National News” with Knowlton Nash was starting. We always managed to catch a glimpse of the news and that made me head off to sleep in fear. The horrific images, the sounds of conflict and war, and the mostly sad or tragic stories frightened me. My world in Attawapiskat on the James Bay coast was confusing and tragic enough but this glimpse through the television of a more global world seemed terrifying.
Over time I have managed to become accustomed to the nightly news but I find that I still don’t enjoy the experience. It seems as though everything I watch on television news has to do with tragedy and conflict in one way or another. I think too much of this type of negativity is just not good for the mind.
Canadian broadcast news seems to be more sensitive and informative than reports on American channels. Most of the U.S. networks have an army of reporters that dedicate themselves to either entertaining us with celebrity tidbits and gossip or painting a picture of doom-and-gloom in hysterical ways. American news shows are full of conflict with people fighting with each other and abusing one another mostly concerning politics. A host of rightwing shows have developed that are lean on facts and huge on intimidation.
These days I find myself getting most of my news from the quieter and more reserved voices of mid-sized independent internet news sites. Oddly enough, I have found that when I really feel the need to update myself on what is currently happening in the U.S., I go to the Comedy Network.
At first I enjoyed having a laugh watching “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report”. Then I realized that I was actually getting some quality news information on current events on these programs. I get a quick glimpse of the daily news and a healthy dose of laughter. I never thought watching the news could be so much fun.
In Native culture, especially in a Cree community, no one ever takes anything or anyone too seriously. As a matter of fact, the more serious a person may be, the more apt he/she may be in for a good joke. We love to laugh and poke fun at each other and routine events during the day. It is part of our way of life. It gets us by.
Our past is riddled with all sorts of terrible events and situations. Today we still endure many hardships and difficulties with high rates of unemployment, addictions, poor health, terrible living conditions, bad diets and racism. I think that our ability to laugh has been one of the greatest tools for our survival. When things got bad, there was always someone there with a light heart to lift our spirits and allow us to keep moving forward.
To me Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert are following the old American Indian tradition of having a laugh when times get tough. Although the topics on these funny news programs are often tragic or maddening, things seem to make more sense when punctuated with a laugh.
Let’s face it the world is in a bit of turmoil these days and for the most part many news programs just seem to make matters worse. I find it interesting that I get my best news from a couple of comedy shows. That says a lot I guess about the state of news programming. Actually it’s a joke.