Within the depths of the business section of today's New York Times, I came across an article on the downsizing of Newsweek. Although they're not the first or last publication to forgo some stories, it begs the question – what is newsworthy these days?
(By the way, I'm either suffering severe deja-vu, or this has 'been done' before, perhaps even by me. Still, this is important.)
The same stories are provided in an overwhelming array of ways and mediums. For instance, the story of Flight 1549's landing on the Hudson River. This story has held a top spot on seemingly every station, in every paper, and on every news segment on every radio station I've come across. Frankly, I'm sick of it.
Please, don't misunderstand me. I think it's wonderful that the passengers of Flight 1549 survived, and that the pilot should be rewarded (by US Airways, not the government). But, I also think that there is an endless amount of stories that get zero coverage, while the nation watches repeat stories on Obama, the plane, crazy parents, etc. Enough is enough.
In Richard Pérez-Peña's article, Newsweek's editor explains that the need for repeated coverage is disappearing. “If we don't have something original to say,” explained Meacham, “we won't. The drill of chasing the week's details is not sustainable.”
I look forward to these changes at Newsweek. While it is, arguable, a necessary change due to the economy and the suffering of the publishing and news industries, I also think that it shows creativity and a willingness to change and redefine news journals. Hopefully, their readers will agree and the journal will benefit!
Which brings be back to the original question. What does newsworthy mean, and who gets to define it? The media's coverage of certain sensational events has gotten a bit unwieldy over the past decade or so. A landmark change is the OJ Simpson court coverage, but I know better than to label that as the reason. I could go back so far as Dickens and serialization of sensationalist stories for profit. Really, that's what we're still doing today, but more directly.
I buy into it. Everyone does. And here I am, clogging up the blogosphere with regurgitated stories and quotes. Am I just furthering the problem rather than bringing about a solution? Perhaps. Do I care? Not really.
There's also been an uptick in what I see as a lazy person's guide to talking b.s. Newsweek will call theirs “The Bluffer's Guide,” while TheDailyBeast.com embodies it completely. Won't these short-lists of big stories and events simply further the problem? Rather than open up space for other stories in the press, these lists will take over. If a story isn't on the Top 10, then it won't be seen at all by the majority of society. My God, soon we'll all be reading newspeak , just as in George Orwell's 1984.
We should be worried. Someone should do something. Unfortunately, that someone is not me. Call me a fatalist, but I've come to realize that I won't be making any major changes in society, or at least not for a long while. Still, I think that the blogosphere is one of our greatest hopes for the continued sharing of information that doesn't make it onto CNN's greatest hits countdown. Keep writing. Keep thinking. Keep blogging!