Why Look Back?

The end of the year is generally when I turn the news off for a week or so because whether or not there is something to report, journalists like to turn their focus to history. Highlights of 2005 flood every news program and paper, with phrases like ‘The Year in Review’ and ‘2005: A Look Back’ appearing repeatedly.
Networks and publishers try to capitalize on average Americans’ extraordinary ability to feel sorry for themselves.
Shots of burning tanks, dead celebrities and natural disasters cause the public to sit down, grab a cup of Starbucks and take a moment or several to ponder how the time flew by.
No matter how much sappy orchestral music is played in the background, no matter how many cheap editing techniques are used and no matter how sadistic and unpleasant the photographs may be, there is nothing more meaningless and irritating to watch than one of these tributes.
The very idea of encapsulating a year’s worth of events into a three-minute montage or a seven-page insert is absurd, but to pretend it has a purpose is foolish.
It seems that the people who make these real-world versions of high school yearbooks are afraid their audience will forget that New Orleans was practically destroyed in August.
They might forget the terrorist bombings in London, or that hundreds of American soldiers have died in Iraq.
But if there’s something I will give the media credit for, it’s their persistence. Nearly every article I read gives the background on whatever subject is being discussed, and a short summary of events is listed. So there isn’t much danger of these events being forgotten. They will be on people’s minds for years.
These tributes wouldn’t be quite as annoying if the same techniques weren’t employed over and over again.
The montages always start with a slow fade into something that happened in January, an obscure Enrique Iglesias song plays and the images jump to September, because usually anything that occurred during the first eight months of the year wasn’t very interesting or led to even bigger events during the last third.
A portrait of Richard Pryor glides past, with the words ‘Richard Pryor: 1940-2005’ superimposed below (because the audience could not infer nor remember that he died less than a month ago), and the segment closes with a slow fade while Enrique’s guitarist plucks the last notes of his earnest ballad.
I’d like to see a journalist try something new. Perhaps they could recall incidents that were important but were never really discussed in this part of the world.
Maybe random people could submit stories, the most interesting and unique of which would be compiled into a list.
Allow me to contribute my own year in review, starting at the very beginning.
Jan. 1, 2005: I did absolutely nothing.
March 14, 2005: I purchased a pair of bright red Reeboks, the first shoes I’ve ever worn that actually received compliments.
July 25, 2005: I paid a visit to the Tajigles landfill north of Santa Barbara while working for an environmental consulting firm. I was gone for 13 hours but only worked four.
Aug. 9, 2005: I quit that job.
Oct. 30, 2005: I attended a social gathering at Loyola Marymount University that involved dancing.
I did not dance. Instead, I sat on the sidelines and talked to a friend.
Dec. 18, 2005: My band, Fort Necessity, had a show. We messed up a lot.
Dec. 31, 2005: Thoroughly aggravated by lists such as this one, I decided to drown my sorrows in several White Russians.
This trend will probably never stop; it kills too much time at the end of the year in between holiday specials and late-night talk shows.
But the tributes only serve to boost the egos of journalists. I’m not referring to reporters.
I’m talking about the O’Reillys and Riveras of the media, the self-aggrandizing news magazine journalists who insert themselves into each piece of archive footage from the previous year and say, ‘Look what I’ve done for you, America.’

Jacob Beizer is a second-year English major.