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Informed or entertained?

April 29, 2013 - Jodelle Greiner
I was reading a yahoo.com article about some blogger who’s getting lambasted for saying a professional cheerleader was too fat for her uniform. What was interesting to me was one of the comments.

“Somebody needs to start a website for news like Yahoo used to have back in the day,” wrote Khalnayak. “Anyone know of one? Just news, not articles about how one woman called another one fat.”

I totally agree with what Khalnayak is getting at, but there’s a problem: the general public.

Used to be, people listened to the news to be informed. They wanted to know what was going on with the federal government, in their hometowns and counties, and school districts. It affected their lives. They made decisions based on what they learned.

That isn’t the case anymore.

People don’t want to be informed, they want to be entertained.

Used to be you could run a picture of an automobile crash or an article about a current event or issue and people would say, “Those poor people. I’ll take over a hot dish.” or “I need to talk to my councilman, I don’t want them passing that.”

Nowadays, people will scream at the newspaper, “I don’t want to see that nasty stuff! That’s a private matter! Tell me who Kim Kardashian is sleeping with!”

I grew up watching Walter Cronkite on the CBS evening news. I cannot imagine him discussing any celebutante’s lifestyle choices as if it had the same importance as the Kennedy assassination, the Iranian hostage crisis, or Gulf War.

So why do we have this type of “news” today? It’s simple: supply and demand.

Journalism, to an extent, is a business like any other. Wal-Mart tracks how many t-shirts they sell, what type, and what sizes. Newspapers have, and still do, track how many copies we sell off the racks. We also track what articles you read online. That tells us what you, the public, wants and we try to see that you get it, just like stores do.

What’s going to get us the most readership? What articles does everyone want to read? If you’re saying feel-good stories or “positive news”, you’re wrong. What gets the highest readership — and always has — is any article with a dead body in it. A close second these days is celebrity gossip.

Don’t believe me? Go to yahoo.com and check out their Trending Now section: most are about death, shock and celebrities. And the President made it today, too. Not for his political stands, but his CNN joke.

So, when you question why we put something in the paper or air it, remember to ask yourself, ‘What have I been reading about/listening to lately? News about Syria or the city council? Or the latest scintillating gossip?”

That’s why.

 
 

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