Coffelt’s Corner: No News is Good News

Early in our married life, Linda and I would go to the mailbox together each evening. Often there would be nothing there. You see, in those early years we didn’t receive much mail, and most of what we did receive consisted of bills. We’d open the mailbox door, peer inside and say together, “No news is good news!” I have no idea as to the origin of that phrase, but it’s always stuck with us and we generally smile when we hear it repeated today.

As a youngster growing up in rural Northwest Missouri, our choices of television viewing consisted of black and white and two channels, maybe three on a clear day. One of the things that I did NOT want to watch was the news. What was the fun in watching people just sitting there talking?

Fortunately, I didn’t have to suffer through much of it, as the news in those days only lasted a total of 30 minutes. That’s 15 minutes of local news, followed by 15 minutes of national and international news. During all of that time, I was very much in awe of Walter Cronkite, as he seemed to know an awful lot about everything in the world.

Could you image the world today without news? With the myriad of news outlets in print, on the air and over the internet, what would it be like if there simply wasn’t anything to report? No bombings, no plane crashes, no invasions, no political statements, nothing.

Reportedly, it has actually happened. On April 18, 1930, the BBC radio announcer was to give the 6:30 p.m. news. Apparently, the editorial staff had decided that there was nothing newsworthy to report.  He announced “Good evening. Today is Good Friday. There is no news.” The brief announcement was followed by piano music for a few minutes, and then back to the regularly scheduled programs.

I remember a similar day back in 1972. I cannot remember the exact day, but I do recall the radio announcer saying that it was a very slow news day. There was a report later that day of a submarine, I think it was a Soviet vessel, in distress, but I don’t know the exact circumstances. My search of the internet for facts on that event was fruitless.

However, the face of news, as we now know it, changed forever in my view within just a few short days. There were lots of newsworthy events to report in 1972. We were still engaged in a very unpopular war in Vietnam, Skylab was launched and in orbit, none of us alive will ever forget the tragedy of that year’s Summer Olympics, and there was a presidential election.

History has pretty much forgotten George McGovern, but the one little news item that gained the most attention was the arrest of five men for breaking into the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee at the Watergate Hotel. After that day, the American public was supplied with a flurry of news as to speculation, inquiries, Congressional hearings and eventually the first and only resignation of a United States President.

Yes, I think that’s the day that news reporting changed. We have become a society that MUST know within a nanosecond of any newsworthy event. We are obsessed with news and feel as though we must have round-the-clock access. And we do.

Can you imagine a day without news? I can. After all, no news is good news.