News is, by definition, made up of the things that are newsworthy. I take (and I think most people take) newsworthy to mean a couple of things:
- The things that don’t normally happen: the oddities, the rarities, the exceptions to the rule
- The things that do normally happen that people will pay (either through subscriptions, or through viewing advertisements) to read, hear and/or view.
The first definition is a good thing, but the problem with it is when people forget that these are the exceptions. People start to think that the murders, earthquakes, scandals, and car crashes reported on are happening all the time, every day, and most are going un-reported on in the news. But they aren’t. Almost every single one of the rarities gets reported on. None of the everyday things get reported on that contrast this.
For instance, when one plane crashes, that’s news. When tens of thousands of planes make it to their destinations without much incident, every single day of the year, that’s not news, it’s just everyday-life. But when people hear of two plane crashes in the same month, they start to think that air travel is not safe, despite the fact that tens of thousands of planes are still making it to their destinations, without incident, every single day of the year. To put it in perspective, most adults take thousands of successful steps each day. Now, if two of those steps in the same week didn’t go well, (like maybe they stepped on some ice and slipped, or stepped in some doggie doo and fouled up their shoes), they don’t start to think that walking, even from their bedroom to their bathroom, is just too dangerous to do.
The second definition really makes up the bulk of our newspapers and newscasts. It includes: sports, stocks, weather, advice columns, humor columns, comics, want-ads, obituaries, announcements, product reviews, entertainment reviews, and opinions. This is pretty much innocuous stuff.
A problem with news today though, is that the definitions start to get jumbled. It starts to look less like the first two definitions I gave, and more like this:
- The things that don’t normally happen: the oddities, the rarities, the exceptions to the rule, that people will pay (either through subscriptions, or through viewing advertisements) to read, hear and/or view.
Now there is a certain amount of sleaziness people’s liking of this. Reports start to only be about those raciest scandals, those biggest car crashes, those most deadly battles in the war. And this type of news edges out the more legitimate “exceptions to the rule” and “everyday information people are willing to pay for”.
But the worst part of it is this: it’s all about your motive in reading/watching/listening to the news that makes it sleazy or not. Do you consume this news in order to be thrilled/shocked/disturbed/outraged by it? Or do you take in the news so that you know what you can do to help, how you can pray, how you can engage people? Is news for your entertainment or for your information?