Tell me why that is news

By Gus Bode

As a journalism student, I am in the habit of reading any news source I can. Like most people, I often glance at headlines when I am in the checkout line. Most of the time I have to laugh at what makes front pages these days. However, I also consider what type of publication I am reading. It is commonplace for a tabloid to print sensational headlines, but tabloid journalism is too often being leaked in the main stream.

Of course there is a market for the latest news on Britney Spears, but where should journalists draw the line? How should news be defined? Journalists are often called watchdogs for the public, but is a celebrity’s ill-fitting bathing suit a matter of great public concern? I think not!

I hate to be repetitive in my writing, but I have to bring up the media’s coverage of the major players in the upcoming election. I understand that thorough coverage is essential as the election gets closer. The public often uses the media to make informed decisions about its choices in candidates, but the line is blurred when seemingly credible news sources start putting just as much or more emphasis on Republican vice-presidential pick Sarah Palin’s pregnant teenage daughter than on her political views and policies. Does the fact that Oprah may not like Michelle Obama change the core issues of her husband’s campaign?


Media coverage is a sign of the times, however, it has become more about giving the people what they want and less about giving them information that affects their daily lives.

Before my fellow journalists get too angry, I have to say that there thankfully are exceptions; journalists who care more about what is important than what sells. Of course I realize that without readers or viewers there would be no news industry, but it is our responsibility as journalists to walk that sometimes-blurry line. Some may attribute the change in coverage, especially in print, to changing technology and the fact that print media is becoming obsolete. Still, the need for survival is no excuse for a lack of journalistic standards that is apparent in much of today’s media.

Sadly, today’s media are simply a reflection of society. Most people realize that it is not appropriate to want to see the potentially bloody aftermath of a traffic accident; still that knowledge does not stop most from stretching their necks to catch a glimpse. It is the nature of the world that we live in.

Now, I have returned to my initial question. What is news? Is what we have come so accustomed to really news, no matter how sensational or jaw-dropping? Perhaps the most important question of all is are the Britney Spears of the world leaving room for the important things? For that matter, what are the important things anyway?

Wood is a senior studying journalism.