Thursday, March 26, 2009

This is Why You Can't Lay Off Your Newspaper Staff

If you do, this becomes the top story on your website. In its entirety:

Unusual garage sale: 'Eight is Enough' star Willie Aames is leaving Olathe

Willie Aames, the star of “Eight is Enough,” “Charles in Charge” and an actor in other television shows and movie, is having a garage sale today at his Olathe house.

It’s a moving sale so all must go, and Aames himself will negotiate prices, according to an e-mail announcing the sale. It will be at 16054 W. 160th Terrace from noon to 2 p.m.

Aames will be taking cash only. There will be household items, antiques, artwork, a piano, deer head mounts, sporting goods and television and movie memorabilia.
Not kidding, the top story.


escotel said...

well, where to start: If you'd ever worked at a news organization (which you obviously haven't) you'd know that news is whatever people are talking about.

See, even idiots like you are talking about it!

So as it turns out The Star does know what they're doing...which you obviously don't.

jackknife rodriguez said...

I love tabloid journalism. I thought I was reading the National Enquirer, but now I can just read the KC Star. Thanks for covering my passion for crappy stories.

Jim said...

You could start by making a coherent argument. You have a problem on two levels. One has to do with your premise. The other has to do with your argument if given your premise.

Let’s start with the second one and assume your premise to be true - the media really only exists to inform people about whatever other people are talking about.

Was the garage sale of Willie Aames the most talked about event happening in KC yesterday? Not the Missouri Tigers in the Sweet 16, or the impending blizzard, or the latest drama between the mayor and city council, or any of the scores of other things going on in the city. Had to be Willie Aames right?

Maybe it was the most talked about event. I wish I knew, however, who was talking about it. No one I knew was talking about it. Maybe I live in too insular a world.

My bigger problem, though, is with the idea that journalism means reporting on whatever people are talking about. That pretty much absolves the newspaper of any responsibility to inform the public on topics that are in the public interest. And there is a big difference between “in the public interest” and “of interest to the public.” News organizations do have a role to play in covering what people are talking about, but they also have a major role to play in covering what people are not talking about.

We have a free press because the media are some of the tools the public has to maintain its place in our democracy. When Willie Aames’ garage sale takes top billing, there is certainly something important not getting the attention it deserves. I am not saying there should not be a story about Willie Aames. It will always be a curiosity to see former stars holding a garage sale for fifty people with camera phones. But it absolutely cannot be the item the Star chooses to highlight above all other topics in the region.

The only other point to make is that I was not, and still am not, talking about the Willie Aames garage sale. I am talking about the failure of our most important local media outlet to do its fundamental duty. I hate that because I like the Star. I like newspapers in general. I am somewhat fearful of a day when people like me posting whatever they want can be considered as legitimate as a report by a professional journalist with professional editors and a code of ethics.

My point is that highlighting the Willie Aames garage sale only increases the chances of that day arriving.

Evil St. Louisan said...

"news is whatever people are talking about"


Is that what they teach in journalism school? I would like to see escotel cite where that definition came from. I'm sure it is from a well respected journalism institution. Please, let us know.

How many people does it take talking about something to make it news? Two? 50? 500? My wife and I are discussing whether to watch a movie or basketball tonight, is that news?

If my old classmates want to have a reunion and there are a thousand of us, should that be the top story in the paper?

I enjoy that the same person who made the "news is whatever people are talking about" is the same person that called other people idiots.

I love irony.

Of course this is not as elegant a reply as Jim's, but it really bothers me when people want to take a stance like that and then put no thought, reason, or logic into their argument.


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