Monday, April 29, 2013

Who Really Needs Instant News?

Before the Second World War, people received news on the radio perhaps at noon and around six o'clock. Once the war started, people demanded more news and more often. The hourly newscasts began. The Globe and Mail came out in the morning, while the Evening Telegram and the Daily Star in the late afternoon. That seemed to suffice the need for news at that time before television and the Internet.

Then came the deluge of news reports.

According to Dr. Meir Kryger of the U.S, National Sleep Foundation, the current addiction to 24-hour new coverage is an enemy to mental health. "I got a big uptick in patients with insomnia right after 9/11," he said. "Looking at something over and over again is upsetting and interferes with sleep." His solution? "Turn off the bloody TV."

Another solution favours the print media to be read on our own time, not when the newscasters say we must have it. Even then, it need not be of breathless immediacy. In her February 23, 2013 column, Toronto Star Public Editor Kathy English wrote about the need for readers to know of events the instant they happened. My email to her. All quotes of Ms. English who did not reply.
Dear Kathy English: 
Tell me what recent "major breaking news" Star readers needed to know "instantaneously" and in "real time." What news items in today's paper do they need to know at all? What would they lose if they read today's paper tomorrow or next week?

Are readers worse off until the Star "updated in next-day stories and published corrections"? How were their lives affected by living in ignorance until corrections were published?
Do readers really need to know immediately "daily, first hand, live reports from citizens at the heart of the Arab Spring"? Explain how life would be different if they learned about these things the next day or next week. 
To use your example, did it matter that readers knew immediately the name of the Newton shooter, or his brother, or if they knew it at all? Ask your readers today if they still remember the shooter's name. Also ask what difference it made in their lives. 
There's a touch of journalistic grandiosity in all this.Yes, report news, real news, but spare the breathless immediacy.

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