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year old third-generation heroin addict” that originally won a Pulitzer Prize for the Washington Post but was then rescinded because it was all fiction.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.