Do We Ever Get Any Real News?
When I was a kid, which was before most of my readers were born, if I wanted the news, I read The New York Times. It was the ‘paper of record,’ and what it said was what I believed was true.
How did the NYT get its daily news content? From three sources: its own reporting staff and two wire services – Associated Press (AP) and United Press International (UPI). These wire services employed reporters all over the world who got paid when they sent the wire service a story which the AP or the UPI could then send to all the newspapers which paid them a subscription fee.
There were only a handful of newspapers in America which had enough money to keep a certain number of reporters on their staff. These papers, like The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, and the Chicago Tribune, created their daily content with a mixture of reportage from their own staffs, plus whatever they decided to print that day from AP and UPI. The media, first radio and then TV, put together their news programs the same way.
In smaller cities, the local newspapers only kept a couple of reporters on staff whose job was to make sure that nothing which happened around their town was missed. So, the local paper carried stories about the town’s upcoming high school football games or the Ladies’ Auxiliary raffle, but what basically kept the local media going were the classified ads.
As for local radio and TV, the so-called news programs were either replayed from what was produced by the respective networks in New York and LA, or they were basically coverage of the local traffic, weather and the outcomes of high school football or basketball games.
Just for the hell of it yesterday I watched the half-hour evening news from my local NBC affiliate and the content breakdown was like this: news stories of local interest – 6 minutes; news stories of statewide interest – 4 minutes; news stories of national interest – 2 minutes (Brittney Griner); upcoming programs on the same channel – 2 minutes; weather and traffic – 8 minutes; advertisements for a local old-age home, a company which cleans out your gutters, the KIA dealership, the Toyota dealership, the shopping mall and the Toys for Tots promotion – 8 minutes.
Want some real news? I could have stayed on for the NBC Nightly News or I could turn on my computer and go to the Google website which contains links to all kinds of news content produced by hundreds of blogs, news aggregators and all the other content-gathering operations which jam the information superhighway and seem to be increasing in numbers every day.
This morning when I booted up, the computer immediately loaded the Microsoft Edge browser which shows me a news aggregator put together by MS-NBC. And one of the lead news stories had this headline: “Bad news piles up for candidate Trump.” The story came from the French wire service, Agence France-Presse, which claims to be “a leading global news agency providing fast, comprehensive and verified coverage of the events shaping our world and of the issues affecting our daily lives.”
The agency’s annual report goes on to say: “With 2,400 staff representing 100 different nationalities, AFP covers the world in six languages, with a unique quality of multimedia storytelling spanning video, text, photos and graphics.” Note the word ‘storytelling,’ okay?
The story about Trump’s bad news started off with some text about how many GOP operatives and politicians are now separating themselves from Trump following his Mar-a-Lago dinner with Nick Fuentes and Kanye West. Then the text made an about-face and talked about how Trump can still count on support from his “steadfast base.”
And that was it. Maybe Trump’s in bad shape, maybe things aren’t all that bad.
I don’t know if you can recall that many years ago, we had a President named Dwight Eisenhower who held televised press conferences from time to time. And Ike answered every question by saying something like, “Well, on the one hand this, on the other hand that.”
It didn’t matter whether Eisenhower was talking about civil rights demonstrations, the Suez crisis or what he referred to as the ‘threat’ of ‘nucleic war.’ It was always a little of this, and a little of that.
Which is exactly how the story read yesterday about Trump that was sent out to all the subscribers of Agence France-Presse.
In other words, AFP is now creating digital content which has absolutely nothing to do with real news.
Think there’s a chance that other than a once-in-a-century appearance of a virus there hasn’t been any real news?