Okay, I’ll give major news networks until Wednesday to cover what will likely be the most important science story of the last 40 years. The main focus of the nightly news might be “patriotism, y’all!,” but at least give it three to five minutes. The possible discovery of the Higgs boson is not very salacious. It doesn’t have the clear heart-punching narrative of donating money to a person the world has already forgotten about several times over. The Higgs boson is too big to be reported.
The discovery of the Higgs boson will not cut your traffic commute in half, nor will the God particle make home deep-frying easier. Even saying “Higgs boson” doesn’t have the natural pizzazz of “landing on the moon,” and the possibility of new dimensions is fascinating in a terrifying what-if-this-changes-everything way. Reporting the Higgs boson on TV news is like if a news anchor started reporting everything that is happening behind the camera during filming: the audience doesn’t have any way to apply that knowledge, has no way to prove what the anchor says and the forces that make the show continue unaffected. The Higgs boson can only be reported as a fun fact.
Science coverage for a major network is hard work. The reporter has to explain how a new abstraction changes our perception of the immediate world’s possibilities without talking down to the reader, the reader being the average “Gays planted dinosaur bones to test our faith” American. Data gets translated into the broadest narrative using the simplest words when covered in print media, and on-camera experts try their best analogies and graphs, stopping shy of sock puppet theatrics. The real possibilities and scope of the Higgs boson aren’t easily fathomed, but they aren’t up for debate either.
It’s easier to talk about the Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes split. It’s a juicy story. Most people will side with Katie because Tom Cruise is insane, but there is a binary. Team Katie or Team Tom. Choose the victim. Be opinionated! Pick the unpopular opinion on purpose and be the life of the party! The other, other non-binary option is to say “well, I suppose they survived as best as they could, but the crash and seperation were inevitable. We can learn a little more about how the world functions if we tried to understand their relationship.” Lucky for us, dumb Enlightenment is a stupid prize for idiots.
As the news spends less time with stories, personal analysis is the only step keeping important stories irrelevant and vice versa. I want to blame Anderson Cooper for distracting the media by coming out, but I can’t stay mad at him. The media ecology side of me knows that this is how the news cycle works, and the confused side of me wants to run my fingers through his silver hair while drinking wine on the couches of the Anderson 360 set. To every woman who fawned over him, you now know how I felt when I found out Rachel Maddow is gay. To every homophobe, neither will own up to the dinosaur bones, but you don’t need to know better. Be opinionated!