OPINION: Quit selling ‘soft’ news

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Whenever a news organization is labeled as “fake news,” I’m one of the first to jump in and push back vigorously against those claims.

That being said, the news media (both local and national) don’t always make it easy for me to come to their defense. Not because they’re “fake news,” but because they run stories as newsworthy, when in reality they are not.

Case in point, I was recently reading The Mercury and was astonished to find a petition to save a dog’s life and the sale of John Currie’s home featured as news stories. Now, I am in no way inclining that The Mercury is “fake news” (that would be preposterous), but those stories are not newsworthy.

The first is just a feel-good story (yes it’s wonderful, but it is not something that everyone absolutely needs to know about), while the latter is just general information that affects almost no one in Manhattan.

To be fair, one could argue that the stories I mentioned are newsworthy because they have some relevance. So let’s say, for the sake of the argument, I agreed with you. Then what happens if hypothetically there was a story about a corrupt local official stealing money from the city? Are you willing to put that in the same category as a story about John Currie’s house being on the market or a petition to save one dog?

I would hope not, because that would be utter nonsense to do so. They are completely different: one is a story that affects every resident — as it would probably be their tax dollars that are stolen — and needs to be known, while the other is just the price of a home. As with the petition story, again, it’s just a feel-good story.

The advent of the 24-hour news cycle has created a problem of masquerading feel-good stories as actual news. Sometimes there aren’t enough newsworthy events for CNN, CBS, etc., to fill the 24-hour cycle, so “soft” news then gets propagated as “hard” news that people need to know and talk about.

For local newspapers, it’s unrealistic to think you’ll have “x” number of pages per copy every single day with hard-hitting news. Please quit falling into the trap of the 24-hour news cycle by dressing up feel-good stories and general information as actual news. It hurts your credibility.

Caleb Snider is a sophomore in public relations. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Collegian. Please send comments to [email protected]

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