News is news

news is news

Recently I wrote about young George Stephanopoulos on “Good Morning America” and his (evident) impression that two men kissing was newsworthy.

Well, it got me thinking. What do we mean – what do I mean – by “newsworthy”?

There’s an excellent show on Sunday mornings called “Reliable Sources,” hosted by Howard Kurtz, which tries to answer that question. It examines the news of the week – not for itself, but for the way it’s been covered. It asks: are we getting the news correctly? And, just as importantly: Are we getting the right news?

This last Sunday, Kurtz and his guests examined the relative importance of this week’s big stories: President Obama’s State of the Union address, the crazy California policeman who killed people and then got killed himself, Marco Rubio’s drink of water, and the Carnival cruise that stalled in the Caribbean.

Obviously the State of the Union was the most important story of the four: it will have the most lasting implications, over the coming months. But the networks were apparently thinking about split-screening it with the Jonathan Dorner siege, if it came to it.

Well, wasn’t the Dorner story news? Yes, in a way. It was certainly important to Californians, as it impacted their own safety. It also reflected on the inner workings of the police force, and how they react to attacks on their own. But it wasn’t as weighty a story as the State of the Union. And the standoff at the mountain cabin was pure theatrics. And – imagine – the networks thought about split-screening it with the State of the Union!

The Marco Rubio story was purely fluff, naturally. However: like Dan Quayle misspelling “potato,” and like Howard Dean’s unfortunately Muppetish scream in 2004, it showed him to be maybe less than Presidential timber. So it was probably half a story, at most.

The Carnival cruise? One “Reliable Sources” guest quoted statistics on the number of Americans who take cruises, and it’s a significant number. And Carnival is based in Panama, and sails under Bahamian flags, and has offices in Miami. This raises serious questions about management and organization. How many times over the past few years have Carnival cruises come to grief? Several, including (most tragically) the Costa Concordia in Italy. This is a real story. (But it’s a story about a mismanaged corporation. It’s not a story about how badly the passengers suffered. They ate a lot of vegetable sandwiches, and used smelly toilets for a couple of days. They weren’t transported forcibly to Somalia.)

I love “Reliable Sources.” It grounds me. It reminds me of a passage from the Analects of Confucius (chapter seven, verse 21): “The Master did not speak of anomalies, feats of strength, rebellions, or divinities.”



In other words: flashy stuff is fun, but it’s not really worth your serious attention.

So how ‘bout them Kardashians?

About Loren Williams
Gay, partnered, living in Providence, working at a local university. Loves: books, movies, TV. Comments and recriminations can be sent to

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