Carefully Crafted on September 08

What is news?

In the comments section to an earlier, my cousin Christina raised an interesting question abut MSNBC and the recent developments regarding Keith Olbermann and Chris Mathews being removed from their anchor position during election coverage. As entertaining as I find them, that’s probably the right decision.

In my opinion, I think the cable television has done a terrible job differentiating between reporting news and commenting on it. Lou Dobbs on CNN and Olbermann, Mathews on MSNBC (and probably people on FOX News … I just don’t watch that station) offer their opinions on the day’s events. That’s commentary.

Journalists are there to report the news to the American people. In this case, they are providing a valuable service — equipping us with valuable information to help us make an educated, informed decision when going to the polls. Networks need to draw a distinction between reporting and analyzing. Viewers deserve to get the news — just the facts … not an anchor’s opinion on the facts. That way, we can all make our own informed decisions.

That being said, I understand the need for commentators. These television stations are in a business and trying to turn a profit. Characters like Olbermann and Dobbs help ratings. I have no problem with that. But, the stations have a responsibility to inform viewers or readers about what’s news and what’s just one person’s opinion.

On a more local level, it’s disheartening to think about how much actual “news” goes unreported — either because it is too complicated for a 30-second slot on the nightly news … or because it won’t attract viewers. Very often, I’m working with clients who have great stories to share — some that are just interesting and others that actually impact the community. But, due to cuts in newspaper staff, or too much air time being dedicated to non-news stories designed to attract eyeballs, many worthwhile stories go untold.

I’d be interested to hear more reaction to this. What’s your opinion?

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