The following is part of my rant in the weekly papers I edit that sort of dovetails into my previous post. I can see by the comments my Sunday post generated it was a barn-burner – and yes Dogboy we need to talk! Happy trip to you and the Mrs.!
Perhaps media criticism in a market our size isn't the most comment-worthy thing I could write about, but I really believe this country has been lured into a political inertia and the kind of journalism most people are exposed to is part of the reason.
I think there is a lot of hopelessness concerning our various levels of government and that feeling has been translated into a lack of participation for some and a sort of selfishness for others. As long as my cow isn't being gored then leave me alone and let me watch a reality show.
One of my ex-bosses at the college where I spent seven miserable years doing public relations amused himself greatly with a phrase he claimed he coined: "F*ck you, I've got mine." That seems to be a feeling that runs through American society today.
While I'm happy that record numbers of people have enrolled to vote due to the Democratic Primary, I can only hope that these same new voters turn up at neighborhood meetings and at City Council sessions as well as demand more from their local press. The way to do that is with positive reinforcement: tell the advertisers of the media you consumer and like you're a customer because of that outlet. Then write the editor and publisher to tell them you did that. And include some suggestions for stories and improvement.
My e-mail is down and I'm up against deadline, so forgive me as my mind is wandering a bit. Here are some bits and pieces that are floating to the surface through the chaos:
One of the biggest variables in the news business is whether or not an event is a "story." Last week a reporter from CBS3 and I were the only media at a presentation of a $25,000 donation to the construction of a new playground at the Glickman School in Springfield.
Now the school has never had a playground and this generous donation when matched with city funds and those raised by parents and students will give literally thousands of students in the years to come a safe, modern place to play.
Now isn't that a story? So why did other media outlets skip it?
I was the only reporter that I could see at least at Craig Della Penna's presentation about river walks and greenways at Chicopee Comp last week. Chicopee has three river walk projects pending and Della Penna's presentation was certainly a strong argument for them.
Wasn't that a story, too?
For me, a story has to be something that will attract the attention of readers, give them some information they might not be able to ferret out on their own and allow them to react: celebrating, wanting to participate in or protesting an event or situation.
For me, seeing footage of a fire may not necessarily be news in the sense of how many people that story can affect. And the local TV folks love to show us overnight footage of fire and car wrecks.
Why? Well, it's relatively inexpensive to produce. It is potentially crime- and death-oriented, which is huge for television news.
Hey, everyone is strapped for cash in the news business these days. There are plenty of things my staff and I can't get to just because we've run out of time. The events we do cover we feel are important ones that reflect the life of the 13 communities where these newspapers are read.
I've heard television news directors here say that people don't want good news. What they want is crime, money and weather. Good news is just a sideline to the types of news consultants say people want to see.
Are these the same consultants who tell NBC we really want to see the national news time on the "Today" show wasted on Britney and Lindsay crap?
So is my approach to news wrong? Well, our papers are read, we're selling advertising and when people come to our Web site they go to an average of 12 pages.
So folks, if a member of our News Department is the only one who turns up at your event, please know that we and our readers and advertisers think your story is important, even if it doesn't involve a car crash.
© 2008 by Gordon Michael Dobbs