Sunday, May 20, 2007

What is newsworthy?

     About a month ago I took it upon myself to check out a children's book that I thought might be worthy of recommending on my main blog. The title of it is The Young Journalist's Book and the author is Guthrie Bentley. It is a great book to pitch towards children who have a knack or bent toward writing and although it is not comprehensive in supplying all needed information, it is informative enough to get any young person started in the writing life. I applauded the author for making the distinction between "hard news" and "feature" or "human interest" stories.  "Stories" being the key word here, a few fairly current controversies suggest that a line has been blurred between non-fiction and fiction but if you've ever been in a position of writing a "hard news" story there is no mistaking the difference. It's like night and day. This is not only getting at the facts- it is pressing in for detailed information that the "private" sector often wishes to keep concealed- whether the said information concerns the general public or not.  
     It has not escaped my attention that prior to the decease of a well-known newspaper maven in the U.S. (of Scripps/Howard fame), the local version of his paper here in Denver, The Rocky Mountain News, started to look and read like a tabloid. I'm not surprised. Tabloids probably outsell regular hard news carriers two to one. Actually, the numbers may be better than that since I haven't had the opportunity to check stats.
     At any rate, it includes enough detail of the elements that go into a regular newspaper which might run a few features now and then. I believe that most people pick up a paper to find out what's really going on and are not necessarily wanting something to make them "feel good" about the world. Not to say that there is anything wrong with that, but when you are looking for facts, opinions often disappoint. Most people pick up a paper expecting to read hard news.
     An amusing point on this is made in the book when it cites a quote made by Charles A. Dana who was a journalist for the New York Sun back in 1882. He said: "When a dog bites a man, that is not news; but when a man bites a dog, that is news." Isn't that an excellent point besides being amusing? Well, that being said I will go on with my point. It is simply that we must be clear about what we are writing when one sits down at computer, writing pad or typewriter. Dan Brown expressed real concern for people that used his book as a hard refutation of the facts of Jesus life. His words were along the lines of, 'what part of "fiction book" did they not get'? That is certainly enough for me. As far as a writers' veracity of non-fiction or biography- perhaps the publishing houses ought to employ more fact checkers. That might clear up the problem altogether! Truth is the most newsworthy item in my opinion.
 Feel loved!
The Castle Lady

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