Letter: Entertainment factor makes news more interesting

In response to Friday’s editorial, “What Should be Considered Actual News?,” I would like to first say that I agree wholeheartedly with your argument’s premise – mainstream media’s presentation of current events is progressively becoming more superficial and fickle with time. This is especially prominent in the increasing number of talk shows hosted by impudent instigators with a penchant for melodrama. However, I would like to reply by mentioning a few key points.

What makes something worth reporting? In Lanson and Stephen’s “Writing and Reporting the News,” the authors specify 11 judgment factors that journalists should make to determine newsworthiness: impact, weight, controversy, emotion, the unusual, prominence, proximity, timeliness, currency, usefulness and educational value.

While the order of importance of these will vary with how the news is being delivered, it is obvious the rant of celebrity Victoria Jackson doesn’t meet many of them. Also obvious are the properties that such a story does possess – namely: It is unusual, it features a prominent figure, it has a high chance of effecting people’s emotions and has a high degree of controversy. This story is legitimately worthy of being reported — as news.

Of course, it is also entertainment, which is the purpose of media. I do feel that stories like this one do not have much substance. Regarding the point you made about news outlets striving for ratings, this makes perfect sense – we have the choice to watch or read what we want, and people will always chose what is most interesting. I would argue that news used to be a lot more boring, especially before online media gained prominence. Sure, they reported important world events objectively, and there was a lot more real significance to the stories. But would you rather read a textbook over a non-fiction novel by the same author?

Simply because you are not interested in a news story, even if such preference is based on commendable principles of journalism, does not mean it should not be reported. The same argument could be raised against your editorial column: What makes that news worth reporting?