Sensationalizing the obvious: the chicken little news

We’re facing tough times. I don’t need a newspaper to tell me that- every single day. Today there was a story about people ditching their cars for insurance money, real effect on most of us, negligible. Damage to our attitude and psyche, progressively worse.

We’ve had two bold, daylight murders- both drug related. Effect on most of us- minimal. Damage to our perception of safety- real.

Regurgitating Columbine. Reminder- sure. News, no. We can pick things through history for every day of the year to remember. Yes, Pearl Harbor day was a black eye on American military might, but 60 years later it’s not news- it’s a history lesson.

The Wright Brothers were from Dayton. It’s been over 100 years since they first flew. Every time their great niece sneezes- it’s a front page story. Why?

News isn’t just writing about what happened, or regurgitating a press release. News is supposed to give us some sort of insight on what is going on around us. Make us smarter. It’s supposed to help us analyze what is happening so we can work together to solve our common problems.

It’s also supposed to give us fodder for debate. Not just one side of the story- but both sides. If you are really informed, you should be able to win a debate arguing either side. That’s probably why we see so few real debates any more. Debates are now settled with a score card that’s generally evaluated by a balance in a checking account. (The one exception was the anti-smoking laws passed in Ohio where the pro-tobacco lobby outspent the anti-smokers something like 6-1).

Once again, I’ve spent time reading the whole Dayton Daily News and feel less informed or insightful than I do by reading just a few stories from the New York Times.

I don’t need chicken little dammit, I need journalism.

What do you need?

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5 Responses

  1. Bill April 20, 2009 / 9:27 am
    Stop feeding the Monster….the Dayton Daily “news” is in survival mode.
    Have we lost forever the term responsible reporting?  The current management trends, that support the chicken little and sensationalism, will drive the news business into the ground.   Circulation has to be at all time lows.. Probably the only thing keeping the Dayton Daily alive are the advertisers.(which currently look to occupy 85% of the “news”)  Over 80% of  potential homeowners shop the internet before looking in the newspaper….The writing is on the walls!  Companies are looking to streamline their expenses.
    I rely on NPR, The Wall Street Journal(who delivers to my door every day), and more responsible news organizations for my information. The Dayton Business Journal is also very informative.
    After all, when you have citizens literally running for their lives or barring their windows and doors, how do you expect to get any community involvement??

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  2. D'Arcy Norman April 20, 2009 / 10:08 am
    But you’re leaving out the real reason why “news” is produced – as something to wrap advertising around. Newspapers have to sell a whole lot of ads, which means a whole lot of pages, which means a whole lot of “news” to write. Need a filler? What happened on this day in 1923? What did Britney do last night? What obscure/rare but scary sounding event can we sensationalize into a series of articles? That’d be perfect! Lots of room for ads with that one!

    TV news is the same. They have a 30- or 60-minute program to fill. 4 blocks of commercials. All presold. They can’t just stop the newscast and say “hey, you know what? it was a pretty good day. we’re going to cut to live footage of the beach/mountains/park for the rest of the show. see you tomorrow.” They have ads to sell, contracts to fulfill, “news” to publish.

    Same thing online – websites breaking articles into a dozen pages or more so they can serve up more ads and drive up the pageviews to increase their advertising rates. Newspaper and video news sites that look more like NASCAR banners than a newsroom – flashing badges and logos all over the page – where’s the news? is this the news? nope. ad for the chev dealership. How about this? maybe…

    Until ads are removed from newscasts, we can’t have objective, trustworthy news. I love the proposal to make news a non profit system – it’s the chase for profit that’s corrupted “news” and I think we need to remove that from the equation.

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  3. David Lauri April 20, 2009 / 11:15 am
    Gods, who even watches local TV news these days unless they’ve been at a protest and want to see themselves on TV?

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  4. Larkin April 20, 2009 / 4:00 pm
    This was the core message in Bowling for Columbine. That the media thrives on frightening us. Dayton’s economic woes and poor reputation are considerably dependent on the kind of media coverage it gets. Cox and all of its affiliates have much to answer for. We’d been in Dayton a couple of weeks without catching a local news broadcast. One night in the hotel we happened to turn on the television in time for the news. We looked at each other in amazement– were these people reporting on the same town where we’d spent the last few weeks? Sure didn’t seem like it. People want news, but they want ALL news. It doesn’t have to bleed. In Canada the television news actually reports on things like city commission meetings and pending municipal ordinances– things that really do affect their lives. 

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  5. Allison April 21, 2009 / 8:44 am
    The DDN is a waste of a perfectly good tree. It’s the equivalent of Channel 22 news, they are the low-rent versions of what they really could be.

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