What constitutes "news"?

If news organizations published every crime, every celebrity comment and every political gesture, then the word “news” would quickly lose all meaning. “Dog bites man” = not news. “Man bites dog” = news.
If we can learn something from an event, that we can apply to our own lives, this should also qualify as “news” if it’s a sufficiently unusual/interesting story. Sometimes, it’s difficult to figure out why certain items were selected for front-page status. But this is what appeared on Yahoo’s front page today:

… and I wanted to compare the two highlighted items. Though hundreds of thousands of Americans are encumbered by TSA intrusions every single day in America, it is rare that anything threatening is ever revealed as a result. The fact that Yahoo saw fit to include an incident where TSA actually found something (though it turned out, apparently, to not even be an actual threat) as “news” implies that we should do away with the TSA. If it’s so unusual that it deserves front-page news status, clearly it’s a “man bites dog” incident. The expense, humiliation, waste of time and loss of liberty is too high a price to pay for an occasional find like this one.
Or maybe not. Maybe the opposite is true and we are being told about this to show us how important the TSA’s work is. If they caught somebody with a gun, they might just as well have prevented another 9-11 attack.
If so, then we should be able to apply the same reasoning to the other highlighted headline. If an old man shoots an intruder with his Korean War service weapon, then it is very likely that many other people have protected their own lives (and those of their loved ones) with their own weapons. The only thing unusual here is that both the man, and his weapon, were so old.
If the TSA gun catch is to serve as a “teachable moment” for the rest of us (that we should accept TSA intrusions against our liberties), then so should the Korean War vet’s shooting of a home intruder – even if the only thing that made it “newsworthy” is the age of the man and his weapon.
Yes, I know I’m probably being too analytical with this, but I’m trying to found a science. The science of analyzing the behavior of news outlets. I don’t think there’s a word for this science yet. Perhaps Crimes of the Times can come up with a suitable name.

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6 Responses to What constitutes "news"?

  1. Apopkian says:

    I think the people who choose the articles have two motivations.
    One is to push a left wing agenda.
    The second and stronger motivation is to find the article with the most interesting, or puzzling title to cause the reader to click the link.
    The TSA story was chosen because of the image of guns in stuffed animals that would be created in the readers mind.
    The Korean vet story was chosen for similar reasons.
    Obama is just lucky that all of his scandals are so much more boring than Clinton’s.

  2. SFG says:

    Kremlinologists used to read between the lines in Pravda for hints as to the USSR’s internal politics, so it’s not totally unheard of.

  3. The most amazing headline to me is the one declaring that Lugar’s loss to the Treasurer of Indian is a win for Democrats. You know, because an 80-year-old immigration-loving guy was a shoe-in, while the guy who beat him is obviously a dead letter … in the most conservative state in the Midwest.
    Ha ha! We control the paper, you guys are the Stupid Party!

  4. My favorite is when the one year anniversary of some event becomes the top news story of the day, as though nothing else happens on anniversaries.

    • countenance says:

      Don’t worry. About a year from now, the media will celebrate the one year anniversary of the one year anniversary of the demise of Osama bin Laden….if and only if Obama wins re-election.

  5. rjp says:

    What constitues news? If news organizations published every crime, every celebrity comment and every political gesture, then the word “news” would quickly lose all meaning. “Dog bites man” = not news. “Man bites dog” = news.
    negro rapes white woman ≠ news
    yoofs “wild” about town ≠ news
    negros kill negros ≠ news, but usually reported
    average negro infected with STD ≠ news
    open air crack market at ____ ≠ news
    negro busted dealing heroin ≠ news
    charter school does this = news
    white person “disses” black person = news
    white person has 3 marijuana plants = news
    white people distribute “hate” literature = news
    white teens abusing cough syrup = news
    white person murders person = news
    white person stppoed with too many sudafeds in car = news
    suburban school does this ≠ news
    News anymore is an adgenda that is being pushed. White man bad you have heard this and that, black man not bad because well you haven’t heard anything except good stuff.

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