Diatribe: Creating News When There Isn’t Any.
I remember a time when there was really only a few ways for folks to learn about what was going on in the world … a time when news was really news.
One method was by reading “the paper”. Newspapers were delivered early each morning by the “paper boy” who would drop the day’s rolled-up issue at the end of the driveway or throw it on the porch. Some commuters would carry them on the train with them so as to feel informed when they arrived at the office. Others would look forward to catching up when they returned in the evening. The daily paper, for many years, included the most up-to-date information available for distribution to the public.
Eventually, those interested in current events began to listen to the radio. Radio stations began to broadcast news stories as early as 1920 but didn’t make a big impact on the listening public until WGN in Chicago began to broadcast coverage of the infamous “Scopes Monkey Trial”. The end of World War II and the inception of the television caused the popularity of news radio to quickly diminish.
Television news pioneers made an industry of reporting current events to viewers across the nation. For decades Americans would tune in to watch their local news team deliver stories from close to home, including sports and weather, at dinner time. Then, at bedtime, they might watch the national news programs as they went to bed. Anyone who ever watched The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson probably saw the last few minutes of sports scores before Johnny’s opening monologue began.
Then the internet changed everything.
Once the world found itself online and became accustomed to instant news gratification, the line between news and entertainment was forever blurred. It’s become increasingly difficult for media outlets of any kind to tell a story that hasn’t already been heard. The race to be first has become the story.
I watch the news every morning as I get ready to leave for the office. Today, my local station spent almost ten minutes every half hour reporting about an upcoming “peanut-free night” at a local baseball field to bring awareness to peanut allergies. While there are important stories to be told, it appears that they’ve already been shared. Perhaps, in the right perspective, the peanut-free night at the ballpark really WAS news simply because it hadn’t yet been reported.
In our around-the-clock/24-hour-news world television networks, news radio stations and websites alike often appear to struggle to create enough content to fill their minutes of airtime. Often, it appears that it’s necessary for news to be created when there isn’t any.
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