Adolph Simon Ochs must be spinning is his grave.
Ochs was owner of the New York Times and an enemy of the sensational journalism of the late 19th century.
He was not going to try to outdo the yellow journalism that proliferated at the time.
He wanted his paper to be a model of thoughtful, comprehensive and trustworthy reporting.
The approach he adopted can still be seen on the paper’s masthead: “All the news that’s fit to print.”
Currently, just about anything can masquerade as journalism.
Electronic media has created a gaping maw for news that must be constantly fed.
If there is no real news, then opinions and commentary and interviews of little or no consequence will be put into the insatiable electronic media gullet and regurgitated as pseudo-news. Nowhere was that more apparent than CBC radio’s coverage of Friday’s tragic events at the University of Alberta.
Not surprisingly, CBC radio had reporters on the scene of the killing of three armoured- car personnel.
And, not surprisingly, other than the fact that people had been killed and who they were, there wasn’t much to report. The police are pretty tight-lipped when it comes to providing information about a crime under investigation.
Normally, this would have resulted in a short item and an indication that more information would be forthcoming as it became available.
Instead, reporters made what people were saying on Twitter the focus of their initial reporting.
Since when does what people are saying on Twitter constitute news?
As a content analysis performed by Pear Analytics pointed out, 40 per cent of Twitter content is mindless babble, about 38 per cent is conversation, about nine per cent has pass-along value and six per cent is self-promotion.
At about four per cent, news content ranks about the same as spam.
For about 10 minutes, I was treated to Twitter updates and interviews with people who had little or nothing to offer in understanding what had happened.
No students were killed. Nobody saw the murders being committed. The crime took place early in the morning. No students were injured or even threatened. Sure they might have been frightened, but being frightened is a lot different than being dead.
But in its desire to be “relevant,” some journalists took to reporting on the electronic equivalent of gossip. A real shame.