July 11, 2007

What Interests Readers/Viewers?

Sam Sifton, the culture editor of The New York Times, says the Times cannot ignore news of Paris Hilton because many Americans are apparently interested in her. And I must ask: Has the Time’s motto changed to “All the news that fits the desires of the easily amused”?

Of course you can ignore Paris Hilton. You’re The New York Freaking Times fercrissakes! Lead. Don’t follow.

Has it occurred to anyone in American journalism that people pay attention to what they are taught and encouraged to pay attention to?

(Perhaps I should baby-step through why this is an important question. If no one asks it: that’s bad. If someone does ask it and continues to feed readers/viewers a steady diet of celebrity crap, then that’s unethical–if one accepts that the primary purpose of journalism is to give citizens the information they need to be free and self-governing. If one does not accept this primary purpose as primary, then one is not really a journalist.)

Further, while it is certainly true that some people do want news of Paris Hilton and her sorry ilk, perhaps many more people do not–perhaps all those who drop their subscriptions or turn off their televisions. Wouldn’t it be interesting to find out?

The one thing left to try is still: Take your readers/viewers seriously.

Comments are closed.