From our overstocked archives
Sam Smith, 2010 - The
week leading up to New Year's reminded me of something journalists never
admit: we don't just report the news, we help to create it.
eerie disappearance of news during certain predictable times such as
Labor Day, the Christmas & New Year holidays, and even come mid-June
(when news releases mysteriously dry up), is not an accident. It's just
that we and our sources have better things to do.
are, of course, exceptions such as acts of God and human stupidity. I
still recall coming home from college, turning on the TV and being
surprised by the glut of fires, accidents, and criminal activities that
seemed to absorb the Christmas holidays. It took me awhile to realize
the correlation between my vacations and what I was viewing. A five car
crash simply becomes more important around Christmas or Labor Day.
brought back my early days as a radio reporter, being stuck in a
newsroom on Thanksgiving or Christmas, comforted only by the realization
that there were far fewer listeners as well as far fewer events.
this mean that humanity could get along with less news than it muddles
through normally? What if we made Thanksgiving a year long experience?
Would that end wars, shut up Sarah Palin, and cause Charles Krauthammer
to reflect permanently in silence?
Perhaps not, but it
is worth recalling that during the 19th century when Congress only met
part of the year, the capital's crime rate regularly fell when it was
out of session.
There is no question but that a high
percentage of what passes for news - especially political news - is not
really news at all, but a bunch of sock puppets imitating news. Of
course, the media doesn't tell you this.
years ago, I learned that one way to find time for real reporting was to
hardly ever attend a news conference. It was one of the great gifts of
freedom in my work life. News conferences are devices designed to make
reporters the indentured servants of their sources.
McCarthy once said that Washington journalists were like blackbirds on a
telephone wire. One flies off and they all fly off. One secret of good
journalism is to stay away from that telephone wire in the first place.
if the only disasters on such occasions as New Year's Day are of the
natural variety, if trivia seems to have suddenly soared in importance,
and if all commentators appear obsessed with what will happen next
because they can't find anything happening right now, enjoy it. It won't
last long. Besides, a five car crash can be pretty interesting.