The breaks on the local “Morning Edition” used to contain a segment where the host would interview a staffer about what was hopping on Twitter that morning. (It still may, for all I know, but I only listened to “Morning Edition” on my trips to Lansing, and I rarely go these days.) I don’t know if it had something to do with the staffer’s youthful voice or what, but this segment always chapped my ass. It had something to do with the nomenclature, maybe?
“People are talking about Flag Day a lot today,” she’d report, and my teeth would clench. “People?” Could we be just a little more specific? On the other hand, “tweeters” would be even worse, and finally, I’d think: Who fucking cares what’s trending on Twitter? The whole thing reminded me of the endless meetings throughout my newspaper career, about how we might attract younger readers. The answer was always the same: Pop music coverage! Even little Fort Wayne had a pop-music writer (for a while, anyway). It didn’t work.
I thought of that the other day when I was navigating the Free Press website, where a full-on push to video is well underway, and you can no longer get the weather forecast unless you’re willing to watch a video. This was a piece on the reaction to the new Miss America, who is of Indian descent, and whose victory was apparently objected to be some of these people. The segment, which I can’t find a day later, featured a reporter in front of a strangely minimalist backdrop, again quoting people who tweeted mean things about the new Miss A. But some people were supportive, she added, true to journalistic form. And so two minutes of my life went trickling down the drain.
This has been one of those weeks for news, when Twitter became a place to go for news, only most of it was wrong.
I’m so old — how old are you? — I’m so old that I remember one of my college classmates reporting on the standard at the Associated Press, where he was working an intern-ish first job, far away in Montana: When in doubt, leave it out. If you weren’t absolutely sure of a fact, you didn’t put it in a story.
What a concept. I’ve been told that viewers today will forgive early errors on a breaking-news story, as long as they’re promptly corrected, but speaking just as one news consumer? I’m not having it anymore. I stayed away from the coverage of the Naval Yard shooting until late in the day, hoping the facts would assert themselves within a few hours. Yesterday, I went to bed believing the gunman had wielded an AR-15 rifle and had been generally discharged from the Navy. Wrong. I guess in the future, I’ll have to wait two days.
Early in the comments yesterday, a few of you were talking about particular news events, which by general consensus are reported differently by traditional media outlets. Suicides, for one — newspapers don’t report them unless they happen in spectacular ways. If a jumper from the top deck of a parking garage lands in the middle of rush-hour traffic, for example. If the suicide is famous. A few other circumstances. But generally, we know that suicides reported in the media can encourage potential suicides into taking the step. So we don’t.
Bomb threats, for another. Bomb threats beget bomb threats, and nearly all of them are empty, so? Don’t report them.
I’m starting to think racist-tweet stories — and most stories — should go into this category, too. I know I mentioned a racist-tweet story yesterday, but I’m thinking racist tweets aren’t news. I’m thinking racist tweets — all tweets — are just a reflection of the vast and imperfect human family, and hence? Not news.
We really need to figure out how we’re going to cover these stories in the future. Breaking news is exciting, until it isn’t. Like eating potato chips. But news isn’t potato chips.
So. Let’s cut this short and get to some good bloggage:
A great interview with Linda Rondstadt in the San Francisco Chronicle. As you’ve probably heard, she can no longer sing. But she can talk, and she has a lot to say:
She stays in touch, mostly by phone, with a wide range of friends from her musical career. They include the singers Jackson Browne and Aaron Neville, songwriter Jimmy Webb and her longtime recording engineer, George Massenburg. “There’s a certain kind of intimacy that happens when you spend so much time polishing a phrase or a harmony part with someone,” she reflected, “that never goes away. I feel a special kind of kinship that’s different from my other friends, even if it doesn’t necessarily move into your daily life. They may be living somewhere else and you hardly ever see them. But you can just pick up right where you left off. It’s almost like love. No, it is love.”
I love people who are that unguarded.
Remember when Jeff said something about the Insane Clown Posse, something about how they call themselves family, and just like real family, they can do horrible things to one another? They were right. Gawker has the actual complaint. It’s awful. What white trash these creatures be.
It’s Wednesday! Halfway through the week. Enjoy it.