Our overwhelming news glut
written by Ron:
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“Did you get witness corroboration? What about the quotes? Are they accurate? Are you sure you got this right?” I was eavesdropping as the editor of the daily newspaper interrogated one of his reporters. I was nineteen years old and worked at the newspaper part time in the summer.
The editor, a maniacal stickler for accuracy in reporting didn’t let his reporter off yet.
“How the hell do I know you’ve got the story right? Did you talk with the police? Are you positive about the charges against the guy? You go out again and get me two more witnesses. Then we’ll think about running this story.”
It was because of the editor’s ardent preoccupation with accuracy and honesty that readers of the newspaper trusted its written word.
That newspaper, like so many others, died years ago. Competition with television and the internet spelled out its doom. Advertising dollars switched to more glamorous media.
I doubt if that devoted and fervent editor of my youth would be able to hold down an editor’s job today. First of all, the speed in which news must be printed or aired is much faster now. Secondly, competition amongst the various media wouldn’t allow for the meticulous and time consuming research and development needed to produce a totally accurate news story. Other than the very largest and most respected newspapers or magazines, such as the New York or Los Angeles Times, absolute speed is the motivator. Television, especially, must produce reportage bullet-fast and in an attractive package. High pitched voices, startling graphics and immediacy must prevail when presenting the news. Talking heads must startle and entertain the viewer. By and large, in-depth, serious reporting is still left to the print media.
The local, national and world news we are faced with today is brought to us in varied ways. Back when that passionate editor was grilling his reporter, radio, magazines and newspapers were the prime media for keeping up with the news of the day. Today there are thousands of bloggers reporting on internet sites. There are thousands of bloggers reporting on local, national and world events with the reportage appearing immediately. We can read or hear these reports on iPads, iPhones, smart phones, laptop computers or at home or work on desktop computers. There is a second by second onslaught of news reaching our eyes and ears.
There are complaints that much of the media is bent towards liberalism. Some complain that a few others are too conservative in their approach to news reporting. Since the many decades that have passed since I listened to that devoted editor grill the reporter I had remained in the newspaper publishing business and I’ve never heard anyone or have I told any member of the staff to slant the news in any particular direction, but I digress.
With the speed needed to beat the competition and the graphics needed to attract and hold the viewers attention and with the sheer amount of writers in the blogosphere we are all faced with an overwhelming immediate news glut every hour of every day.
My concern is with the accuracy of what is presented as news. With the thousands of bloggers and untrained writers submitting news reports without benefit of stern, demanding editors protecting truth and accuracy we are faced with highly biased, twisted, partial and prejudiced news on subjects of which we require accuracy to make intelligent decisions.
Today’s readers must be able and willing to discern between accurate, factual news and opinion.
It would be helpful if there were more editors active in the news business like the old editor of the Daily News.
We could rely on what’s presented to us with a lot more confidence.