News, And Not News
Tom Maguire has been all over the coverage of the Trayvon Martin story, and has an excellent piece this morning on News, And Not News
Let me help with the puzzle of what makes news. J-school grads don't dream of covering the local weather; every journalism school graduate longs to participate in any or all of three of the great stories of our nation's past. These earnest scriveners all hope to:Yup. Which is why so much of the country holds them in contempt.
(a) be Woodward and/or Bernstein, breaking the web of deceit and unraveling the cover-up protecting the powerful. (In the current environment they don't want to end up working for Murdoch, so only Republicans get the full treatment; contrast Edwards and McCain in 2008).
(b) report from the bridge at Selma, standing with Martin Luther King against Bull Connor. Oh, to be young and a Freedom Rider, inveighing against White Oppression and Black Injustice!
or, (c) aid Daniel Ellsberg and publish the Truth that ends the Unjust War.
It really is that simple - any story that has the potential to be mashed into one of those templates will have the actual facts trimmed to size. The Duke Lacrosse debacle was such a great parable of White Oppression and Black Helplessness that actual facts didn't intrude on Times reporting for months.
And as a caveat, obviously certain political triggers can boost a story's importance - if the Times can find a gun control angle, boost the gay agenda, or promote abortion rights then a story is "news".