Earlier today, I was researching health care reform for a podcast I was to do about hospice care when I came across a a November Op-Ed column by Oregon Representative Earl Blumenauer talking about how his legislation on end-of-life provisions was eventually politicized and portrayed as a green-light for government sponsored death panels by some members of Congress.
In the column, Blumenauer discussed the media’s role in this false-representation of the legislation, calling the media “a particular culprit in this drama.” He continued, “This was not just Fox News; seemingly all the national news organizations monitored any meetings they could find between lawmakers and constituents, looking for flare-ups, for YouTube moments.”
While not entirely related, Blumenauer’s comment made me immediately think of two things. The first was a video I came across in my reader back in October which featured a world champion anvil shooter in a post titled “How to shoot an anvil 200 feet in the air.” It also made me think of my time at the Des Moines Register. At the time, photo galleries from dmJuice.com, featuring the previous night’s bar activities, could be found on the front page of dmregister.com mixed among news, sports and community publications galleries.
Now, I know that plenty of great journalism is being done in newsrooms around the world, but it does make me wonder if, in our quest to find our way online, we are still a bit too focused on finding that viral video or diggable story to help push traffic. Yes, I enjoyed watching an anvil shoot up 200 feet in the air, and I am sure someone enjoyed skimming through picture after picture of girl holding beer (depending on the thumbnail, the galleries seemed to do well as far as numbers go), but these things aren’t news, they are hardly even features. They are, in fact, YouTube moments. Things I may watch in my downtime while waiting for a movie to render on the other computer.
I guess my question is, at a time when I am being told that local news and investigative reporting are what will set news organizations apart from citizen journalism, what place do things like these have in the newsroom, and is content that drives traffic more important than the substance of that content? Are these just the “Person to Person” to Murrow’s “See It Now?”