What is news? The Manti Te’o story, straight out of a soap opera, is unavoidable; even CNN.com has a block devoted to it. Lance Armstrong, which again is soap opera-esque material, dominated headlines for two straight weeks. The mere fact that longtime ESPN sideline correspondent Rachel Nichols left ESPN for CNN and Turner sports made waves. Finally, ESPN.com, a great source for sports stories, had not one, but two articles (one more objective, one analysis) devoted to the Danica Patrick’s announcement that she and fellow driver Ricky Stenhouse are dating.
Seriously? Two people, even two NASCAR drivers, dating is a headline?
As many people wonder what went wrong with the news media, I often wonder if the choice of headlines is a symptom. News is now more obviously for profit than ever before. In years past, NBC, CBS, and ABC took their devotion to cool, objective coverage so seriously that their news departments didn’t make money, yet they never changed the model, preferring integrity to profits. Now what do we have? Between Fox News (conservative bias), MSNBC (liberal bias), and most other news outlets in the middle, there is much more of an entertainment factor with news stories than an objective “we are here to inform you” factor. My generation has never truly experienced the latter, and it is a true tragedy of American life; all we get is either preaching to the choir, angry biased coverage, and real news mixed in between the entertainment news.
News to me is the following:
- President Obama outlined new education strategy (followed by details on his plan, response from the GOP, and some basic analysis, backed by stats, on whether or not it will pass, and in what form)
- Random NFL player tested positive for PEDs (followed by the NFL’s formal statement, the player’s and team’s responses, and information on whether or not he’ll appeal, along with his rights at that point)
- Charlie Sheen arrested for cocaine possession (followed by details on the arrest and simple analysis postulating the next phase of the process)
What isn’t news to me is sports figures’ personal lives, unless they have intruded upon their professional ones and could impact their livelihood; nor is a discussion on a reporter leaving one network for another; nor is something straight out of a soap opera, seriously, leave it alone and report back when there’s a conclusion to it all.
Unfortunately, though, what constitutes news is defined by the market now, no longer by an objective discussion and criteria, one fall out of the Watergate scandal and the expansion of news into the cable arena. People like weird stories like the Te’o-girlfriend mess; people like watching heroes fall from grace; people like soap operas, and that is how news is often portrayed.
It’s a shame, it really is.