What’s News?

I heard the familiar thud-thud-thud of helicopter rotors tonight, a sound that – oddly – warms my heart.  That distinctive sound of a helicopter reminds me of the last few months that I lived with both of my parents before they separated for good.  My dad was a soldier (still is, in fact) and was stationed at Fort Knox, Kentucky.  In those days the sound of helicopters, loud and low, was a constant accompaniment to daily life; a happy memory, bittersweet to recollect.

I glanced up at the night sky in time to see a medivac helicopter, only a few hundred feet up, racing toward the hospital on the north end of town.  I thought to myself, “I wonder who’s hurt or dying up there.”  I pondered some possibilities – a victim of violent crime, a farmer fresh from a machinery mishap, a motorist hurt in a traffic accident…I wondered, “Will I find out from the ten o’clock news?”


But here’s a strange thing about “the news” – it’s only news if “the news” tell us that it is.  In the spirit of the old cliche (if it bleeds it leads), let’s consider the most prevalent variety of news item: how many crimes are committed every day in an American city?  How many of those crimes are reported on the TV news?  The newspaper presents a greater volume of news, it’s true, but even they don’t get it all – especially considering the widespread cutbacks which have afflicted their industry lately.

A few weeks ago a professional athlete nearly died in competition, right here in Minnesota.  Jesse Barbot suffered a subdural hematoma during a boxing match at Shooting Star Casino in Mahnomen and had to be rushed, in a 100 mph ambulance ride, 75 miles to the big hospital in my adopted hometown of Fargo for emergency surgery.  Barbot’s story is well on its way to a happy ending; it appears that the doctors were able to avert any permanent neurological damage, and Barbot was able to check out of the hospital and go home yesterday.  News coverage: Zero.

The next four weeks will bring Minnesota fight fans more fights than we’ll know what to do with.  Starting with November 13th we have a sold-out, televised show featuring two of the highest-profile boxers in Minnesota in the main event (Matt Vanda and Phil Williams), as well as the professional debut of an elite amateur (Javontae Starks).  From there we move on to November 20th in St Paul, when a local boy (Caleb Truax) fights a former world champ (Carl Daniels) for a minor title belt, then a Minnesota-based African immigrant (Mohammed Kayongo) fights a California-based prospect who is bringing in an entourage of his Welsh compatriots (James Todd) for another minor title belt.  Finally, on December 4th, Minnesota’s top two heavyweight prizefighters (Joey Abell and Raphael Butler) duke it out for bragging rights and a state championship belt at Target Center.  Supporting fights for this downtown Minneapolis event will feature a Jungle Boy, a Freight Train, and a Prodigy.

Will any of these events be considered news by the mainstream press?  I wouldn’t bet on it.


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