Tuesday, July 3, 2007

What is News, Part Two

Forget the specific; let's explore the general question. fairtest.org lists eight attributes of news:


And here's what Peter Turkington says:

The basic premise that attracts a reporter to a story is friction -- two competing agendas; two people facing off over a contentious issue, two groups that are at odds with each other.

Friction tends to lead to interest, and that's what reporters and editors want. Ultimately, they want a story that will cause their readers, listeners, or viewers to sit up and pay attention. If the story isn't out of the ordinary -- if it's just every-day stuff -- it will not be read, heard or seen.

Note that the emphasis is not on what the audience SHOULD know. It's what the audience WANTS to know. Memoranda from the Federal Reserve Board are extremely meaningful to our lives, but Mika Brzezinski, Katie Couric, or T. J. Simers are not going to commit job suicide by reading an entire memorandum on the air.

Of course, I'm going to go for the Samuel Clemens quote:

"...news is history in its first and best form, its vivid and fascinating form, and...history is the pale and tranquil reflection of it."

Granted that Clemens was a newspaperman and probably had an inherent bias, but initial news reports, with all the hems and haws, does have the benefit of immediacy cited by fairtest.org.

In fact, if one makes the unjustified assumption that news isn't edited, one can argue that news is the purest form of history, before the historians have gotten around to taking the time to mold it to fit their biases (pre-Marxist American Revolutionaries, anyone? Just leave Shays' Rebellion out of that little analysis).

But control of the news by the elitists - either the elitsts who only want the important stuff, or the elitists who solely want bread and circuses - isn't going to work in a market society. We will seek the news that we want, and if Megacorp won't give it to us, there are other sources.


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