Nightly News Is a Health Downer

At one time Walter Cronkite was “the most trusted journalist in the world.” When he signed off with, “And that’s the way it is . . . ,” we knew everything that was important to know about the world that day.

Now days, it seems like the nightly world news has pegged its audience, the over-50 crowd that is breaking down and in need of creative medications for various ailments. Plus the way cable news and social media mix it up, everyone’s personal information is news.

Walter Cronkite would roll over in his grave—no, he would wish a virtual hurricane to disrupt TV if he knew that his carefully crafted “And that’s the way it is . . .” news show was sponsored by a company openly discussing erectile dysfunction, warning us of erections lasting longer than four hours—right there in the family room.

Nothing is off limits: Testosterone is now only a low T-number. Hemorrhoid pain can dissolve away in the middle of dinner. “Ordinary” people talk about diarrhea in public libraries and on top of double-decker buses. Leakage protectors are merely “guards” and are okayed by he-man athletes (so, not to worry, we over-50 guys are in good company).

Nightly news programmers cram our TV screens with images of new treatments specifically for the aging everything: Now we need to take fish oil to keep our immune systems intact, baby aspirin to ward off heart attacks, and gingko to help our aging minds remembers to take all those other supplements. We need an eyeball vitamin (taken orally, of course, not in the eyeball, just for clarification) and lipo-flavoniods to squelch ringing in our ears.

What about that nasty joint pain? We watch 60-somethings wince as they walk down the street or play in the park with their grandkids. Then an aging but charismatic celebrity praises a new specialized pharmaceutical concoction, and, next thing we know, those AARP-eligible are magically swinging golf clubs like Arnold Palmer, a new spring in their steps and smiles on their faces. (They obviously ignored all the warnings about developing ulcers, high blood pressure, kidney or liver failure, and even death.)

Such personal messages, no matter how brief, add a new dimension to Cronkite’s restrained refrain, “And that’s the way it is. . . .”

I miss the days when indigestion dominated health commercials. I felt normal and comforted knowing that my ailment was from nothing more than eating too much pepperoni pizza. “Pop, pop, fizz, fizz. Oh, what a relief it is.”

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