BORDERLESS | What is news, really?

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Thursday, June 8, 2017

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WHEN I was in college, one of the topics discussed in one of my classes was choosing between ratings and good content.

For a network owner or producer, this is truly a dilemma. If you choose good content over ratings, chances are you will lose advertisers. These advertisers are the bread and butter of a station.  

Good content does not necessarily mean it is going to appeal to the audience. So there is no assurance that advertisers will patronize the program because of the content.  On the other hand, if you choose ratings over good content, chances are some stories will be sensationalized and will end up with poor quality.

So this is where the issue comes in; recently I have read online news stories that center on sex. For me this is sensationalism at its worst.  One story zeroed in on the “threesome” of two guys and a girl. It described in graphic detail what happened inside the four walls of a motel room.

For me, that was not news. To begin with, a story is considered news if it is new, unusual, interesting, and significant. Yes, the “threesome” may be new, unusual and interesting but for me it was not significant.

How can that be significant when you cannot get anything out of the story?  Those involved in the scandal were not celebrities or prominent individuals to begin with. They were ordinary people. What happened inside the motel room was none of our business. Why do we need to broadcast that? What could we get out of that story?

As a communication professor, I would like to call the attention of broadcast outfits which ran these types of stories. In class, I teach my students to write news stories with ethics in mind. I discuss in class that news stories are supposedly accurate, objective, fair, and factual. It is very frustrating that these lessons are taken for granted in actual practice.

How can we encourage communication students to appreciate the media industry if this is the kind of environment that will welcome them? How can we motivate young media practitioners to uplift the status of the media industry if this is what they see and observe?

If rating is the issue here, news organizations should know how to balance where they stand. There is a plethora of news sources around. If a reporter is resourceful enough, I am pretty sure he or she can find quality stories.

I’ve been a reporter once and I know the task of searching stories is very challenging. However, if you are the type of person who values excellence, you will still do your best even if the circumstances are difficult.

Moreover, I appreciate journalists who are doing their best to fulfill their responsibilities as watchdogs. I salute media men and women who toil day and night and sacrifice their time to gather news that will inform and benefit people.

However, some journalists forget the crucial role they play in society. The information they share shapes the opinions, views and perspectives of the public.  They must at least know what is right and what is wrong. The public depends on them and so they must not lose this trust and confidence.

On the part of the readers/listeners, they must learn to choose which stories to listen or read. They have the freedom to select information that they think are significant. If sex and violence are the main contents of the story, I suggest they refrain from sharing these on their timeline. They are only giving the news outfits more reason to create more stories such as these because as consumer of news, they pay attention to these types.

I pray to hear or read stories that matter; news stories that develop critical thinking and motivate good deeds.

I hope journalists will write stories that open the eyes of the readers to the reality that is happening around. Sounds idealistic? I don’t care, for me this is the right thing to do. ([email protected]/PN)





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