Working at a newspaper, I am no stranger to complaints received on why we chose to cover one story and not another, or why we wrote a few more lines about one subject when there’s this perfectly reasonable topic of great personal interest to the complainer that’s getting neglected.
Most of the time, the reason is simple: we don’t have enough people to cover everything, so we do what we can. So it doesn’t necessarily bother me when people ask for or criticize us for not covering all the bases. Many times, it’s true. However, there’s one reason people tend to give in these tirades that gives me maniacal internal laughter every time:
“This is important! People who follow the news want to read this instead of the inane stuff that’s on the pages!”
It sounds noble on the surface, but unfortunately, it’s utterly false. Most people are more than happy reading the celebrity gossip, the pitiful squabbles, the dumb commentary (which reminds me–thanks for reading!) and anything with the faint air of seediness or violence. Readers may like serious news, yes; but most love junk and aren’t willing to admit it.
Case in point: CNN today. Well, CNN just about any day, but I’m focusing on now as an example. The 10 most popular stories of the day can be foudn on just about any page of CNN.com. Currently at about 6:30 p.m. EST, the most popular story is about a “Horrorcore” rapper accused of brutal slayings. The nastiness factor is definitely there, but I would argue that this still qualifies as real news. No. 2 is a feature on a young woman affected by the recent earthquakes. A fair story as it provides a window into an unfortunate impact shared by many. No. 3 is of actor Tyler Perry discussing his sexual abuse. We’re starting to get into tabloid territory now, but it’s a recognized person and a serious topic, so still OK.
Ah, here we go! No. 4: I had a secret office affair that ended badly
No, this is not a study on office affairs, nor is it even about some well-known individual who has had once (otherwise it would have indicative words such as “Letterman”). This CNN “story” is nothing more than the writer talking about her own affair, adding links to her associated website featuring drivel on love tips and celebrity relationships.
Is there anything to learn from this column? If you start anything with “secret office affair,” most people will already be assured it will not end well. The commentary on the story seems pretty empathetic, so there may be some qualities in that. But does this qualify as something CNN should publish? Would your local news be commended if it brought random people behind the desk just to talk about how they had covert make-outs with Ted in the mail room?
Maybe that’s too scary to contemplate.