Tuesday, July 3, 2007

What is News, Part One


Two comments are worthy of note. This one is from Rhi:

If [Mika Brzezinski] owes [Andy] Jones an apology, he owes her the same. And one to the public, for insulting our intelligence by running the story of a socialite finishing her pitiful stint in jail over a story about Republican public criticism of the Iraq war. Just because Larry King picks it does not make it the most important news story of the day. Or even the most important news story that the mainstream media actually runs.

The second comment is taken from a post in "My Musings":

The marvel of the present-day media is that even though I live about 14,500 kilometers from Los Angeles, not only do I know who Paris Hilton is but I also get my unwanted regular dose of her antics everytime I surf the TV channels or open the Newspaper to the people columns. The exploits of...Paris Hilton...deserve to be condemned, to say the least but the media, in their race to keep the cash registers tingling, are raving over her escapades instead of rebuking them and proving to the world how stupid Americans can be (No wonder, people all over the world really hate them).

My comments:

  • Importance is in the eye of the beholder. One's opinion that the Iraq War is more important than Paris Hilton's release from jail is just an opinion, as would be my previously stated opinion that the Asian tsunami is more important by far than either story. For whatever reason (which I'll get to in a minute), both Andy Jones and the editors of My Musings' people columns have judged that Hilton is an important story.

  • The concept of some mythical Murrow era in which news was totally objective and not driven by ratings is pure poppycock. Murrow was popular because he reported on popular things...and eventually he ended up doing celebrity interviews.

  • News, like everything else, is market driven. For better or worse, broadcasters emphasize the word "broad" in trying to appeal to as many people as possible...and that means that most news outlets will jump on any story about Hollywood's bad girls (Britney, Lindsay, Nicole, Paris). Perhaps the narrowcasters will concentrate on Iraq, and perhaps they'll get readers/listeners/viewers, but that doesn't mean that all of them will do so.

At this point Paris has become a symbol for what's wrong with the media, and even attempts to be "Paris-free" don't address the underlying issue of celebrity worship. Take US Magazine, please:

While we're happy to provide you with work-avoiding Paris Hilton stories all day long here at Usmagazine.com, we realize that Paris, like paperwork, is not something you want to take home with you.

That's why this week's issue of Us Weekly is 100% Paris-free!

From front cover to fashion police there are no mentions, no pictures, and nary a "that's hot" to be seen.

So when you're enjoying your weekly bath with the mag, there's no need to worry about Paris bursting your bubbles.

Note that, while the print edition of US Magazine is Paris-free, the same can't be said for the online edition. Hmmm...wonder why they didn't shut off Paris news on the online end?

Also be sure to follow the link and look at the US Magazine cover. Yes, it is completely Paris-free! However, their feature article in the upper right is about Nicole Richie...this is an improvement?!?

As another example, take this current snapshot (subject to change every 20 minutes) of the ten most popular stories at CNN. At the moment, the top ten is Paris-free, but are all ten of these articles truly newsworthy? Are any of them truly newsworthy? Should CNN be covering this crap?

1. Doctors at heart of UK terror probe
2. Medical officials at odds over TB traveler's diagnosis
3. Survivor of hate crime attack jumps from ship, dies
4. Prosecutor: Classmate helped cop move body
5. Sly Stone speaks; life fine, if 'not very normal'
6. Bush: Libby pardon still possible
7. Security beefed up in 8 city transit systems for holiday
8. Feds: Benoit's steroid purchases were 'excessive'
9. Iran heaps scorn on U.S. claim of Hezbollah in Iraq
10. Surprising things you can get for free


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