Yesterday I lauded social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter; now I'm going to vent a little about my e-mail provider. I’ve been getting a little fed-up with AOL lately. It’s not that my e-mails are getting lost, or the service is shoddy, or I’m being deluged with spam, but it’s the handling of the news stories that’s been making me increasingly angry over these past few weeks. I’m tired of major, heartbreaking stories being buried under headlines about failing celebrity marriages. I was livid when the day after the DC metro crash AOL had removed the "ticker" of that story, yet kept the one about the Gosselin's divorce. What disturbs me even more about how AOL presents stories these days is that behind it all are thousands and thousands of dollars spent on market research showing that, indeed, readers DO prefer news on yet another self-centered couple choosing their own flights of fancy over their children's well-being to a story on a shocking crash that resulted in nine deaths.
And, please, AOL....Michael Jackson as some type of pioneering influence on race relations in America? What about mourning the death of this noble man (whose passing was glossed over so quickly on the AOL homepage you might have blinked and missed it). Oh wait, he was old, he was supposed to die.
The last straw, I think, was yesterday when I logged on to find these two stories paired together:
TV Pitchman Billy Mays Found Dead
Boy Dies After Father's Day Beating
I'm sorry Billy Mays died--not because he was Billy Mays, the infomercial guy, but because I'm always sorry to read that someone has died "before their time". I'm sorry for his wife, and family, who have lost someone they loved. But it seemed grossly insensitive to me to pair the two headlines together; to bury the link to this boy's tragic and brutal death way down on the AOL home page, below splashy links to tribute stories on Michael Jackson, and below the link to the death of a 50-year old man who, while a charming and notable character in his own right, was not a seven-year old boy beaten to death by his own father, and his father's live-in girlfriend, on Father's Day no less.
Harsh though I might sound, I don't mourn the loss of Michael Jackson. I don't really mourn the loss of Billy Mays, or of Sky Saxon, or, even, of Ed McMahon. Their absence in the world has not left some deep crater of bereavement, and their legacies will live on. But when I think about that little boy, who must have lived for months with a father who had so much pent-up anger inside that he would bash his child's head against a wall, I do feel like a giant, ugly hole has opened up in the fabric of the world, and swallowed up something precious, and good.
I wish AOL would splash his story all over their homepage. I wish they would take a day to fill their page with links to stories of all the children in this country who have died before their time, violently and horribly; maybe if they did the legacy of all that was good and innocent in those children would live on; maybe, too, we'd try a little harder to fix whatever went wrong along the way, whatever made that father and his girlfriend do something so wrong, so unimaginable, so utterly tragic.