During my former days as a reporter and editor, a major question in newsrooms was: what’s the proper part of the news hole major stories should get when they occur at the same time? And, importantly, which stories deserve the most prominent positions on the first pages of various sections?
During the last two weeks, I wouldn’t be surprised if variations of the above conversations occurred, given the recent convergence of four major stories: the ongoing investigations into Trump’s possible Russian connections, North Korea’s nuclear threat, Trump’s repeal of DACA and the “Dreamers” affected by that decision and, of course, the hurricanes.
Readers of this site know I’m not a fan of cable’s MSNBC, CNN and Fox TV news, because I think it’s sub-par journalism. Just comparing the news coverage of major pubs like The New York Times and Wall Street Journal during the past two weeks — and indeed, for many years — shows why I think people interested in the complete news picture should read those and other major print publications.
For days, cable is saturating its content with hurricane news at the expense of other worthy news. No doubt the catastrophe of the flooding deserves major coverage. But continually showing flood waters for days at a time is overkill.
After a few days, the coverage resembled what was known when I was a journalist as “sob stories,” interviewing people who were displaced by the hurricanes. The coverage was so redundant, boring and lacking in originality that I found watching the stock market ticker tape on CNBC more interesting. Moreover, I was able to do so without missing major updates regarding the flooding and other news, which were broadcast on the hour.
As for the North Korea and “Dreamers” situations, it’s as if the cable TV majors have relegated those stories in a way similar to how print pubs prepare obits: keep them up to date, so they can be reported when needed.
Largely ignoring these stories and flooding the air waves with sob story journalism underscores the importance of major print pubs, which have covered all of the aspects of the hurricanes as well as devoting staff and space to the above stories and others.
Reading a major print pub is the only way for individuals to keep up with important world news. But there’s an easy way for people anchored to cable TV to become better informed. In addition to watching their favorite major cable shows, which are dominated by disaster and political coverage at the expense of other news that may affect their future, they can switch to CNBC for a few minutes to get the latest financial news. Then tune in to Bloomberg TV for a while to catch up with what’s happening in other parts of the world.
Doing so will at least provide a more well-rounded news picture of important stories that are largely ignored by the major cable TV channels. This isn’t new. When I was on assignment in Yugoslavia shortly before the break-up of the country, I arranged to meet with a Reuters reporter. On the morning of the meeting, he called and said he had to cancel the meeting because his colleague covering the political trials was expelled the previous night because the government didn’t like his reporting. “What trails,” I asked. “That’s the problem with much of American news coverage,” he said. “Unless it affects America, world events are pretty much ignored.” Reminds me of cable TV news coverage.
Arthur Solomon was a senior VP at Burson-Marsteller. He now is a contributor to public relations and sports business publications, consults on PR projects and was on the Seoul Peace Prize nominating committee. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.