Tuesday, September 22, 2009

“News” Value

© 2009 Stan Spire

I put the word “news” in quotes for a reason.

Alarmists say that without the “news” – particularly “news”papers – our democracy will suffer.

Bullshit. Putting aside the fact that we don’t live in a democracy, the “news” has been exposing crime and corruption and lies and all sorts of sins forever – and in the end all that changes is that a new cast of perpetrators arrive on the scene while some of the old ones just skate free.

“News” is a relative term. What is “news” to you – information of value – might be meaningless to me. For example, take the sports section – please.

The only time a person cares about “news” is when it provides information on something that might intrude – or does intrude – his comfort zone. His taxes going up? That hits home. Some banana republic going through a violent revolution? So what? As long as it doesn’t affect the price of bananas at the supermarket – big yawn.

Most people can’t be bothered with “news.” Celebrity gossip and sports info – that beats out the “news” most of the time. “News” makes people uncomfortable. So why will someone now pay for it online when it just gets him upset and invades his comfort zone? That’s negative value.

Too many people like to be ignorant. They want simple answers, not complex stories. Look at how the yahoos have been going on about “death panels” and other nonsense during the health care “discussion.” They don’t want nuance in reporting. They don’t want even to see the word “nuance.” That means they have to use a dictionary to figure out what that word means and that hurts their pointy little heads.

Numbers Game

© 2009 Stan Spire

Item #1: Full page ad in the Monday, Sept. 21, 2009 edition of the Jerkwater Journal, the Plattsburgh’s daily newspaper. Another propaganda piece by the NAA, the Newspaper Association of America.


Below the proclamation some people stand in a neat row, each reading the dead trees format.

While acknowledging that “the newspaper business has faced unprecedented challenges” in the last two years, the ad states the newspaper media (print and digital) is still a strong presence and will emerge after the “current environment” as a stronger multi-platform source of information.

Then there’s a breakdown by column with numbers and percentages, e.g., 104 million adults read a newspaper every day, more than the sports idiots who watch the Super Bowl. OK, but how broad is that survey: just the US, or North America, or the Western Hemisphere or just the world? No data is provided on when, where and how that magic 104 was determined.

After talking about percentages of how old reads what or people who say they would buy something seen in the paper, the NAA ad declares: “This is not a portrait of a dying industry…”

Item #2: Article in the New York Times, same date (Sept. 21), page B3. Headline: “Newspapers Have Not Hit Bottom, Analysts Say.”

This article mentions “The drop in combined print and digital ad revenue last year, 16.6 percent… was the worse since the Depression.” But such a decline, states reporter Richard Perez-Pena, is “rosy” compared to 2009 so far: first quarter saw a drop of 28.3 percent, followed by 29 percent in the second quarter.

The source for these figures cited by the NYT? The NAA, of course.