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Posts published in “Day: January 13, 2020”

News release news


“....according to a news release.”

To me, those are the five most irritating words in the English language.

Two main reasons why they’re so infuriating. First, it means whoever wrote them wants to tell you only as much as is being “released.” When it comes to any agency of government, that means there’s likely more to the “story” but “this is only what we want you to know.”

Second, it means the news agency receiving it - and uses only that - is likely not doing its job. “Reporters” are just waiting for the printer or the fax to regurgitate.

Case in point. Some weeks back, two Boise Police officers stopped a car to check out the occupants. While doing so, the driver got out and ran while the passenger slid over and tried to drive off. An officer reached through the window trying to stop the escape and was dragged some distance, sustaining injuries while the car sped away.

Two days later - TWO DAYS - the story appeared in local papers that said “...according to a news release” in the lead sentence!

What the Hell?

The Treasure Valley is still small enough that an attempted arrest gone wrong, and the dragging of a cop requiring a trip to the hospital while felons flee, should be a significant story. And reported so.

But, no. The media had no idea it happened and had to wait for the damned news release. Two days later!

Local news - both broadcast and print - is a joke in many markets. Almost no outlet still staff city council or county commission meetings. Don’t even mention budget or planning and zoning sessions. Not even the cop shop or the fire house.

But, any evening, you can learn how to clean your pets toenails - bake a cake in a new convection oven - see the local news team go down a five-story slide - learn about tires that never go flat - see what’s new at the dog pound - hear from visitors to the local home show - watch a right-handed golfer learn to hit left-handed - see a kindergarten class graduate in their cute little caps and gowns. Well, you get the idea.

Used to be city hall, county commissions, cop shops and other local agencies spending your tax dollars were contacted daily - in person - by reporters. Real reporters. The workings of government and such places were reported long before there was a catastrophe. No more. Now, it’s waiting for the damned news release.

News releases are not new. Noah probably used one to notify the animals of impending high water. But, the fact is, info contained in them is only what someone wants you to know. There’s nothing inherently wrong with ‘em. But, they should be used as the basis for contacting the issuer and finding out what’s really going on. More than likely, there’s more to the story that may make reporting it worthwhile.

Which brings me to the two other “journalistic” words that hit me like fingernails running down a blackboard. “BREAKING NEWS.”

If there are any two words in our native language that are more misused,
more meaningless, more prostituted - well, I can’t come up with ‘em.

When Special Prosecutor Muller made a singularly rare appearance to summarize his much-heralded (and much maligned by his boss) findings about Russian perversion of our 2016 election, the media went nuts.

All the TV networks - all - streamed “BREAKING NEWS” across their broadcasts as Muller spoke. And they did so for hours. For days! Muller talked at about 8:30am (our local time). And, at 10pm (local time) networks were still bellowing “BREAKING NEWS” although Muller had appeared some 14 hours earlier and had added no subsequent information.

You see it day after day. And it’s bogus most of the time.

There’s only one journalistic reason to use those words. A story like the Virginia Beach mass shootings. Story breaks. Hours roll by, new details are reported as they - break. That’s “breaking news.”

Most news outlets - newspapers, too - are not owned by news professionals but by corporations or conglomerates. They answer to distant entities with boards of directors. And, too often, stockholders who want ROI - return on investment. They want ratings - they want market dominance - they want dollars.

So, much of the news business has become “infotainment.” TV is especially bad, pandering to what gets people to watch, even if what’s “watched” is too often fluff and B.S. - not news.

Think, for example, about the in-depth reporting on Trump the last three years. Where has TV gotten its information? Have TV reporters broken all or any significant stories? Has TV been the original source?

NO! Without The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post we would not know what we know. Day after day, the source for TV reporting is reading the newspapers, just like the rest of us do. Were it not for those three major dailies, TV anchors would have little to talk about.

News releases reported as news and “breaking news” that ain’t. What the Hell happened?