If you're a Monty Python fan, you're no doubt familiar with the "News for parrots" segment:
The real-life equivalent of this bit is the news story that details a local connection to a major local or international news story:
Channel 77: Milwaukee native Dan Harmon fired as 'Community' showrunner http://t.co/11Gfem5f— 77 Square (@77square) May 21, 2012
Mequon native injured during Colorado theater shooting http://t.co/pN6Gso1p— Wis. State Journal (@WiStateJournal) July 20, 2012
The former bishop of the La Crosse diocese is in Vatican City to help elect a new pope. http://t.co/5X3z6ys6Pm— WISCTV News 3 (@WISCTV_News3) March 11, 2013
Today brought another example of that sort:
UW-Madison students in Kenya are "safe and accounted for" http://t.co/F3dSI4Svqr— WKOW 27 (@WKOW) September 23, 2013
I like to make fun of this kind of news story -- indeed, the reason I was able to pull up those first three examples is because I'd made fun of them on Twitter -- but I have to admit, the one about the UW-Madison students in Kenya reminded that stories like that can serve a purpose.
See, one of those students is a friend of mine. She's spending the semester in Kenya with University of Minnesota's International Development in Kenya program. Next month she'll be traveling to Mombasa for a six-week internship with a microfinance organization there, but for now she's in living with a host family in Nairobi while taking classes in Research Methods, Country Analysis, Development, Swahili, and Microbusiness/Entrepreneurship. But she was an hour outside Nairobi when the attack took place, so she was never in any danger.
As it happens, I already knew she was safe, thanks to an email yesterday from a mutual friend. But absent that email, I would have been profoundly relieved to see that WKOW article and grateful to them for publishing it. That doesn't mean I won't still make fun of similar articles in the future, of course, but I'll also try to keep in mind that there's often something of value to be found in things that may seem very silly on their face.