Tuesday, April 16, 2013

It's NOT News, Folks!

There is no denying that the Boston bombings are news - big news. But not everything that can be said about the bombings is news. And, like with every other big story, the TV news media kicked into overdrive when reporting this story, resulting in the usual overkill. So what is and is not news as it relates to the Boston bombings? What should and, perhaps, should not be reported?

Rather than go into a long dissertation on what should be reported and what should not, let me resort to a simple list and then an explanation. Here is what constitutes actual news and should be reported by the electronic media:

- The fact that the bombings actually occurred, of course, is news.
- How many bomb blasts there were is news.
- What kind of bombs they were is news.
- If there were any unexploded bombs is news.
- How many people were killed or injured is news.
- The extent of injuries is news.
- Police or FBI updates are news.
- Interviews with people on the street about the facts relating to the blasts, such as whether any suspects were seen, etc. is news.
- How someone can send help is news.
- How many of the killed and injured are children is news.
- Whether or not the bomber or bombers were acting alone, as a small group, or part of a terrorist cell is news.
- Evidence gathered about the motive for the bombings is news.
- Whether or not there are any suspects or persons of interest is news.
- When a suspect is caught will be news.

As Sgt. Joe Friday was so fond of saying, "Just give me the facts, Ma'am." That's what the news is. So what is NOT news, but what is being reported anyway? Here's that list:

- What the marathon runners were thinking when they crossed the finish line is NOT news.
- Whether or not people are being asked to pray for Boston is NOT news.
- A father's letter telling about his poor dead son and how he will be missed is NOT news.
- How people are grieving about the incident is NOT news.
- How an elderly runner fell down and was then helped up so he could cross the finish line is NOT news.
- Street interviews about how people are coping, what their thoughts were at the time, or how it made them feel are NOT news.

Yet, in viewing the TV news coverage, probably 70 to 90 percent focuses on something in the "NOT news" list. The reason is simple enough: Once the initial round of real news was reported, that's really all there was to report about it until the police or FBI discover something new. Until then, the news shows should either stop reporting about it and move on to other news of the day, or they should perhaps produce a human interest show that reports all the other, more emotional bits of information.

It's not that everything in the latter list should not be reported at all, or that it should be ignored. It's simply not hard news. When I turn on to learn the latest facts about the bombing, that's all I want. I don't want heart-wrenching stories about people with courage coping with a terrible ordeal. It is best to collect all that information and turn it into a special program, or at least a special human-interest segment on the news shows and then label it as such. But don't call it what it isn't and don't use up most of the broadcast time focusing on it. It's NOT news.

One thing is certain, if the bomber's motive was to garner attention for himself, the wall-to-wall coverage of the incident is giving him what he wants and then some. If there is nothing new to say about it, then just move on.

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