Media must fill
news hole, even
with trivial items
Former U.S. Rep. Gary Condit was all over the front page in the summer of 2001 – while Osama bin Laden ws planning the Sept. 11 attacks. Click image to enlarge.
HAVE YOU NOTICED that what passes for news these days – except for a couple of major stories – is getting sillier by the minute?
Anthony Weiner’s penis has had more front page play than almost anything – except the spying scandal and Bradley Manning.
There is a reason for this, known in the trade as the “summer follies.”
The news seems to go on vacation in August. It left a bit earlier than usual this year.
IT REMINDS ME of the summer 12 years ago, when the name “Chandra Levy” was on every front page in America.
I don’t blame you if you don’t remember about the supposed misdeeds of U.S. Rep. Gary Condit. His story was one of trivial speculation.
The Washington Post story in 2012 on Gary Condit. Click image to enlarge.
The Washington Post captured it in this retrospective published in 2012.
“Who says there are no second acts? Eleven years after the Chandra Levy scandal drove Gary Condit from the House, he’s dipping his toes back into the brackish waters of politics,” the article says.
It was all about a missing intern and the speculation ran riot – until, tragically, her remains were found in a Washington, D.C. park.
“Condit, of course, is best known for his affair with Washington intern Levy, who disappeared in the summer of 2001 and whose remains were found a year later,” the Post article says.
“While the six-term lawmaker was never named a suspect in the murder — and in 2010, another man was convicted of the crime — suspicion surrounding him contributed to his defeat in the 2002 primary elections.”
Physicists tell us that whenever there is a vacuum, air will rush into it until the air pressure reaches equilibrium.
So it is with the news.
A search for “Anthony Weiner” on Google news returns 295 million hits. Click image to enlarge.
Twenty-four hour cable TV channels have an insatiable appetite for anything that passes as news. The more salacious the better.
Daily newspapers must fill the space between the ads every day – no matter how trivial the content.
So, something as silly as Anthony Weiner rushes in to fill the vacuum.
Of course the Weiner story had a “sex” angle, and every newsman knows the sex sells…lots of newspapers!
One could almost say the same about the recent arrival of a Royal Baby in the United Kingdom.
BBC America News, which I routinely watch in the evening because it is usually so thoroughly informative, devoted almost an entire week to the birth of the third-in-line to the British throne.
What a waste of good air-time.
Night after night the week of July 21, more than half the 30-minute BBC broadcast – tailored to an American audience – was devoted to the pregnancy and then late, arrival of the baby boy.
Fast-forward certainly came in useful.
Editors weigh the importance of news stories – and thence, whether to cover them at all and then where to put them in the paper – by the impact they have on readers.
Can they honestly say the Weiner penis story and the Royal Baby had any impact on more than just a few readers?
I don’t think so.
Alas, it is likely to get worse before it gets better.
The doldrums of August begin today for the news media.
Congress is leaving D.C. for its summer recess – so there won’t be much news out of Washington for awhile. (That, some may say, is a blessing, not a curse! At least those idiots on Capitol Hill wont being doing any more damage for awhile.)
Millions of Americans will be on vacation, paying little or no attention whatsoever to the news. Did you remember to cancel your paper before you left?
It is regrettable but a recurring fact of the news cycle that August is amongst the slowest periods of the year.
Expect to see more silly stories on Page One in the coming weeks.
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