Deciding what is news

January 13, 2011

There was a 4.1 intensity earthquake here last week.

Where did most people go to find out about it? Twitter.

Not an uncommon phenomenon.

The Hudson river plane landing first broke on Twitter, Google phone was first revealed on Twitter, so was Michael Jackson’s death. And television immediately followed up with their analysis and expert opinions.

Those of you who follow this blog, know I do not consider TV news as journalism. Television news producers rely on market forces to decide what news is.

I’ve witnessed a TV producer determining to run a story on tight pantyhose versus a story on breakthrough cancer research because the visuals are sexier and oh, Oprah took stock of stockings on her show the previous afternoon!


TV news is all about “what sells.” And the way they determine that more and more is via the Trending Topics list on Twitter.

It’s almost like news has become reactive i.e., based on “market research” that determines what people want, rather than being proactive, i.e., producing news which interests, informs and educates the community.

If one thinks about the implications of letting market forces alone guide newsroom decisions in a global scenario, one can envision a world where people are fed with what they want based on what they know and what they know is what the media provides them as news, which again is determined by audience preferences.

Where does this loop end? And what does it achieve?

And isn’t that what Twitter as a news medium does? Whatever the “tuned in” folks want to talk about becomes the raging buzz. TV producers pick it up and before you know it, every channel is running some rehashed version of the “popular” stories.

In years past, when newspaper editors ruled the roost they brought us the first in-depth coverage about the famine in Ethiopia, the massacre in Tiananmen Square in China, the theater siege in Russia, the marine reserve in Australia’s sub-Antarctic waters, and other events that did not happen in our backyards.

Today, in a way Twitter is doing that for us — wait, we are doing that using Twitter.

So, is that to say that we are the ones deciding what news is? And what is newsworthy?

But are we qualified to determine the nature and content of what we read, hear and see? Do we know enough to be able to make the choice? Or do we just know more about what we know and not know anything about everything else?

Of course, as individuals we can exercise our right to read, listen or see what we want to and ignore what we don’t but as a society can we afford to be given only what we want?

For, some of us may want only entertainment, but that is not all that’s happening in the world.

What do you think? What would you say qualifies as news these days? And who do you think makes that determination?

16081BD1A60533E0F1173D28DE4F0D3F Deciding what is news

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One Response to Deciding what is news

  1. MaitreyeeNo Gravatar on January 19, 2011 at 9:43 pm

    I so so agree with you. The rubbish that we have to see in the name of telivision journalism I swear. Lovely post


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