What is news anyway?

There is a campaign underway to raise $2.1 million to fund a movie about Kermit Gosnell, the doctor convicted of three murder counts, and 21 felony counts of illegal late-term abortions.  The movie producers are trying to make the case that nobody knows about this convicted murderer, yet everybody seems to know about Jodi Arias, the woman convicted of murdering her boyfriend in Arizona.

The argument is that Gosnell’s crimes are larger that are Arias’ and why does everybody know about Arias and not Gosnell?

The problem with this argument is that it misunderstands the nature of news and news reporting.

When television news reports on crime, it doesn’t weigh which crimes are worst.  If that were the case, CNN would have 24 hour coverage of Syria instead of 24 hour coverage of the Malaysian airliner.  There are many other factors that go into the determination whether to cover a story or not, and how much coverage to give it.

This is because TV news, whether we like it or not, wants viewers and ratings.  It is a reality show disguised as “news.”  More people would prefer watching a murder trial of a pretty, young woman than an elderly physician.  Yes, like it or not, the Arias case is sexier.  It has everything people want.  Drama, sex, lust, violence, you name it.

Some are making the case that the Gosnell case isn’t getting coverage because the media are generally left wing and pro-abortion.  The argument goes that they are ignoring his crimes because he was performing abortions.

In journalism school we had entire courses devoted to discussions about defining news.  The general  conclusion is that news is drama.  It is not what is most important; or what impact the greatest number of people; or what has the biggest impact on the world, or who and how many die.  Rather, TV news is predicated on whether the media can get cameras on scene, and the pictures they capture.  Plus it also helps to have pretty players either as criminals or victims.

Even if the movie gets made, people still have to go see it, and unfortunately without a pretty girl or sexy story, that is a long shot.


When is no news enough news?

For three weeks, CNN has covered the strange disappearance of Malaysian flight 370.  The only problem is, nobody knows what happened to the plane then, and as of this writing, nobody still knows.

Yet CNN continues to make it the Breaking News: story on their website and devotes most of their on-air coverage to the story.  This, despite the fact that every bit of information that comes out of Malaysia has been wrong.

To my knowledge no other news organization has devoted so much time and space to a story with no facts.  Isn’t news just that?  Facts?  How can CNN call itself a news organization when its coverage of this story consists of talking to experts and its own reporters over and over again, with nobody knowing anything?

Malaysian flight 370 is a fascinating and tragic story certainly worthy of coverage.  But shouldn’t that coverage come when there is real information to impart?

In the meantime, CNN, other things are happening in the world.