Sunday, October 18, 2009

What do people want from the media

People want the media to inform, entertain, amuse and they want it all instantly. A Herculean task for the industry—especially since a lot of folks want it free.

But above all, readers want to trust the source. You expect the New York Times or Wall Street Journal to thoroughly vet a story so you know what you are reading is reliable. Folks hate to be deceived.

And in journalism, even with iconic newspapers, it happens. Reporter Janet Cooke’s, infamous profile of “Jimmy, an eight year old third-generation heroin addict” that originally won a Pulitzer Prize for the Washington Post but was then rescinded because it was all fiction.

The Washington Post did something hardly any major newspaper does: they apologized; and in a mea culpa report by their ombudsman of what had gone wrong concluded it was due to a “failure to check confidential sources and the risks of putting sensationalism above editorial judgment. “

I disagree with Mr. Crosbie’s declaration that the local news story is dead, which flies in the face of Tip O’Neil’s famous assertion “All politics is local.”

Yesterday a run away balloon that everyone at first thought had a 6 year old stow away child on board riveted the nation.

If not for that hair raising component of a child potentially at great risk it could easily have been just a local news or blogger upload about an “interesting” family who happens to keep a large flying saucer balloon tethered in their backyard and who also recently appeared on the national TV show “wife swap”.

Here in bucolic Amherst, I posted on Monday morning about a “ghost bike” (a bicycle painted all white and placed at the scene of a car/bike accident where they cyclist died) vandalized by ax wielding assailants.

The local newspaper picked it up the next day (even used a photo from my blog) and then within 24 hours both local TV news stations covered the story as well.

And on a slow news day that is the kind of tragic/weird story that could hit the AP wire (they covered the original accident/death a month ago, a hit-and-run still to this day unsolved).

I agree with Crosbie that in today’s 24/7 world of instant information the average reader initially craves (to, sort of, quote Sgt Joe Friday) “just the facts”; but then 59 seconds later, they are ready for a well-written, well –researched, human interest story--all the better if it actually occurs in their neighborhood.


Anonymous said...

This sums up my problem with the American news media:

There's an ongoing war in eastern Congo in which 5 million people have been killed.

I think that that trumps any boy in a balloon.

Rich Morse

p.s. And don't get me started on how print and broadcast journalism covers crime.

LarryK4 said...

Yeah I posted this in the Blackboard thread we use for the online class

Maybe before the course is done I'll figure out a way to incorporate the give-and-take comments from classmates and instructor:

"But what people want to talk about often is not all that important. A homeless cat dumped in the river to drown and saved at the last moment gets way more comment than a homeless person freezing to death in a city back alley.

If we left it up to (at the time) popular opinion, slavery would still exist and women would not be allowed to vote. And smoking would still be allowed on airplanes and in restaurants.

A journalist (especially editors) needs to prioritize issues and have the guts to stick with it, even if unpopular."

Anonymous said...

How do you know they had axes?

LarryK4 said...

Eyewitness report to Amherst PD (yeah, I let the Daily Hampshire Gazette do some of the legwork.)

And I got a close up look (and feel) of the damage inflicted.

Rick said...

Jeff Jarvis is a huge advocate for local news blogging and what he calls “hyper-local” news sources. He says the Boston Globe (and such) should become aggregators of the highest quality of these local news sources.

“We suggest that a new news organization working collaboratively with a large base of independent sites and companies can establish itself at low cost and risk because much of the news is produced by people other than employees.”

That could be a good model for US news organizations. And BTW he says there are local bloggers making $100,000 - $200,000 in revenue from local business advertising that they go out and get themselves. Not bad.

“The most important single number we presented in Aspen was not a projection but a present reality: In our research, we found hyperlocal bloggers bringing in $100,000 and even up to $200,000 in ad revenue and we believe that can be optimized by at least 50 percent with the creation of metro, local, and ecommerce networks and with better training, technologies, and efficiencies.”


I agree with Rich that its horrible how badly US media covers international news that is way more important than “the balloon the kid wasn’t in after all”.

LarryK4 said...

Yes, Mr. Jarvis is #1 on my list for new-age Guru's who actually get it (the convergence of internet and journalism.)

He was in New York on that awful morning. His audio upload covering 9/11 is a telling testament to the power of this newfangled platform.

Anonymous said...

Today's post - and most of the comments - raise this
blog to a higher plane of excellence.

Nice work, Larry!

-Your Friend