What is the news? Who decides what is news-worthy?

Man finds spiritual life through hermits

Zhang Jianfeng, left, takes a picture with hermits at Zhongnan Mountain, a famous religious shrine, Northwest China’s Shaanxi province. China Daily, 2-16-12

Most days I don’t question what is news and what is not, I just follow the bouncing ball and read the main news stories as they are presented to me by the media.  First I scour my sources for gaming industry news of note, I know most of the story-lines so it is fairly easy for me to discriminate between what is new and therefore news and what is not.  After I have completed my gaming work, I move around the world and the internet looking for significant events and trends in the world – the news.  It is there, that I am most often startled and confused by the reporting.

There are nearly 7 billion people in the world, living on 7 continents, in 196 countries – and in countless numbers of cities, town and villages; each one of those people, countries, continents, cities, towns and villages is news, at a local or individual level.  So who decides which of those 7 billion stories becomes today’s news for the rest of us?  Who decides that Tim Tebow or Jeremy Lin should be the focus of the national media?  Who decides if , Xi Jinping,  Bashar Assad or an underwear bomber is more important and gets more attention?  What about a cricket player in Pakistan, or a diplomat in Zanzibar or two ten-year -old suicide bombers in Afghanistan – don’t they merit as much attention as a Chinese basketball player, a Christian football player or a failed-Nigerian -bomber?

I started to think about this in the morning while listening to National Public Radio.  NPR was reporting on a shortage of medicine to treat children with certain types of cancer.  There may be a group of children whose lives are in danger because there is not enough medicine to treat them – terrible and certainly news worthy, right?   Well, I am not sure; earlier in the week I was listening to Al-Jazeera, the same story was being reported; it did not sound like news to me, it sounded like spin.   It probably does not surprise anyone to hear that Al-Jazeera likes to cover the underbelly of American life – poverty, crime, murder-suicides, the Occupy movement and homelessness.  It covers the main stories too, but it favors stories of unpleasantness in the United States for its in-depth coverage.   I listen because some of the coverage of the Arab world is really good and it is harder for them to fake or spin it – because everyone in the Arab world is watching and paying attention.  It is considerd as close to an objective source of news as there is in the region, above national politics and sectarian divides.  That gives Al-Jazeera and other like outlets a perfect platform to preach a message – you know like the Voice of America and BBC do.  Al-Jazeera, and its equivalents around the world, does report the news, but it spins it in ways that we would find annoying or even untrue.

So when I heard the same story on NPR I was left with only one conclusion – on this day, for this story, Al-Jazeera determined what is news worthy.  NPR just followed its lead.  Isn’t that the way Jeremy Lin ended up on everyone’s lips this last week?  After all, he is just a basketball player, playing on, what at the moment is very ordinary team, except they have won the last few games – but so have a number of other teams in the same league.  However, someone, some sports reporter decided it was a story; an unknown, Chinese-American who had played on an unnoticed college basketball team, suddenly was playing in the National Basketball Association and playing well.  At least he played well in a few games.  Within a week, it was a national story, not just a sports story, but a human-interest, heart-warming, news-worthy story.

Of the 7 billion stories, I don’t think any of the ones cited about rise to the level of news-worth – news.  The visit of vice president of China may be the most important diplomatic event in recent history by the end of the decade; he will be the leader of China and determining Chinese – American relations; it will be as important as Nixon and Kissinger’s visit to China was in 1972.   The events in Egypt, Syria, Tunisia, Somalia, Yemen, Iran and Afghanistan are shaping the entire region and will affect world peace for years to come.  The debt crisis in Europe is threatening the stability of the global economy.  Those events are news, news-worthy and truly important.  The other stuff is just that  – stuff.  Things to fill the time in a world that demands 24 hour a day coverage.  So, in that spirit, I nominate the case of the author in China, pictured above,  who has visited 600 hermits across China,  trying to understand world peace through individual peace and solitude.  I expect USA Today to put it on the front page tomorrow.



2 Responses to “What is the news? Who decides what is news-worthy?”

  1. 1 fotografer pernikahan May 14, 2015 at 1:49 am

    Can you tell us more about this? I’d love to find out
    more details.

  1. 1 Brandon Colker Trackback on March 12, 2015 at 5:48 am

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