Sunday, March 18, 2012

I am convinced this is news

The rise of blogging and the fall of newspaper readership is often blamed for the sad demise of newspapers. We are led to believe that the evil Internet is causing newspapers to die out. Nobody wants to pay for news any more, and the Internet and pimply faced bloggers are to blame.

I'm sure bloggers are to blame for providing local reporting at zero cost. The Internet is also to blame for allowing people to read rubbish at low cost, rather than having to pay a high-price for their rubbish. There's plenty of blame to go around. Craigslist is robbing the classified business of newspapers and hurting their revenue much more than amateur writers like me. Everyone is hitting news media.

What's really hitting news media is a realization that they aren't the best game in town. Newspapers used to be the only way to get reporting and to learn what the world was upto. You read what was in the newspapers because you had no alternative. And you imagined that their reporting was good. What blogging is exposing is how shallow and pointless reporting can be.

Here is a sample news article from one of the most respected papers, The New York Times. It is an article about Apple, and I would urge you to read the entire piece. My site not a spectator sport, so go read the article.

Yes, this article. Go read it. It isn't long.

Before I go on, I should point out that the New York Times is one of the best newspapers around. The quality of their journalism is high, the style and quality of writing is exceptional, and their opinion pieces are often thought-provoking.

Ok, now back to this article. The one you read a few minutes ago.

The entire article is:
Apple will make an announcement at 9am tomorrow.

That's it.

That's all.

And it is followed by paragraphs of completely pointless and completely inane speculation. That's what news has devolved into. One real point that can be summarized in five words followed by paragraphs of deeply worded and important sounding nonsense. Alright, I'm lying. The full article is "Apple will make an announcement about its cash at 9am tomorrow." That's eleven whole words and the summary is at least eight words, not five as I claimed. It is true that bloggers have no journalistic integrity.

Television news is a lot worse. There aren't that many newsworthy events in a day, and an even smaller number of events that the specific audience will care about. And considering that the audience might tune in at any time of the day, the same news has to be looped incessantly. Take the same point and restate it in a new way. Include commentary by the village idiot. I used to find it hilarious that television reporters would consult some random bystanders on their analysis of national events, like the government's planned budget. Enlightening as that was, the internet allows us to see what village idiots around the world have to say!

And media's obsession with celebrities is baffling too. So some actress goes to jail over some minor issue. Why do I care, and how does it affect my life at all? Unless she started teaching Mathematics at the local public school, I can't see how it will possibly impact me or my children. But media is obsessed with the smallest detail of celebrities: telling us just how white some person's teeth should be. Yes, please do tell me.  Wait, that's not sufficient. Could you include a panel of unknown dingbats to completely analyze the situation? Oh, that's so much better.

Celebrity gossip and inane commentary isn't news. And no amount of analysis can convince me otherwise.


(Image courtesy: Cox and Forkum.)