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Cory Farley, voted "Best of Reno" 26 times in 27 years by readers of his column in the Reno Gazette-Journal, takes an unconventional look at topics from presidential elections to the best way to cook Brussels sprouts.

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Location: Verdi, Nev, United States

Sunday, December 23, 2007

10 Signs Your News Source is Mailing It In

In some places they’re called “evergreens,” those stories you see year after year: Last day of school, reminders to check your tire pressure, the annual pardon of the White House turkey (this year the turkey was the one on the right).
Reporters hate them. They do them only because editors tell them to. Since most editors were reporters until they got out of journalism to chase the money, I’ve often wondered when the change takes place. At what point in the slog up the ladder does a lively writer start believing readers need to be reminded that when temperatures dive, they should wear jackets?
Christmas is the high season for stuff like this, because there’s not much real news and half the staff is using up the vacation they couldn’t get approved in July. At some newspaper or TV station right now—hell, at hundreds of them—an editor is telling a reporter to see whether the stores are full of people doing last-minute shopping. On Wednesday morning, the same editors (or their holiday fill-ins; no difference) will want an analysis of whether shoppers are taking advantage of post-holiday sales.
Watching for these things, it turns out, is a quick way to tell if your news source is doing its job. When updates on Britney Spears or late-breaking flashes on the biggest-grossing movie of the weekend outnumber stories containing actual pertinent facts, it’s a clue: Look elsewhere for the information you need, say, to make an informed political choice.
With an eye toward helping you make these determinations, here are 10 Signs Your News Source is Mailing It In:
  1. It contains more than one mention per week or one picture per month of Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears or anyone in their families in any context not involving a crime sufficiently heinous to be mentioned if it were committed by a manicurist from West LA.
  2. Any headline or major story begins with the words “Gas prices . . .”If you have to be told what gas prices are doing, they aren’t affecting you. If whatever they’re doing is affecting you, you already know. Gas price stories are classic space-fillers, the kind of thing some editor is sure to bring up in every meeting because he can’t think of anything else.
  3. It documents crowds in places that normally draw crowds. A throng at the mall on Dec. 26 is not news.
  4. At the end of a holiday weekend, it tells you the roads were crowded. This is particularly lame in newspapers, where the best they can do is let you know on Monday morning that if you came home Sunday night, you probably got stuck in traffic.
  5. It contains any reference to how you should dress or where you should set your thermostat for a given set of weather conditions. Television is reliably idiotic about this: “It’s going to be in the teens tonight, so you’ll want to crank up the furnace.” Whew, saved me from turning on the air conditioner five months early.
  6. It warns you to slow down in bad weather. Sure, it’s good advice. But anyone dumb enough to need a reminder is too dumb to heed it.
  7. It says, “Store valuable items out of sight and lock your car.” You know all those times you left the Macy’s bags on the hood just for a minute while you ran into Starbucks? Well, now you know not to do that.
  8. It passes along as God’s revealed Truth the contents of any White House report released on a Friday afternoon.
  9. The term “white Christmas” appears after Dec. 20.
  10. It gives you one more goddamn story about parents “frantic” because they can’t find a Wii. Granting that you want to do what you can for your kids, teaching them that everything isn't instantly available is not a bad lesson. Buy them a book, then read it to them.

13 Comments:

Blogger tuzoner said...

Here in Tucson, we have 3 major local TV news outlets (ABC, NBC and CBS) and two major local newspapers (one is owned by McNews Corp - the same as the RGJ) if one doesn't include the Tucson Weekly.

For the most part, the local TV stations produce and air human interest stories not news. The main reason I tune-in is to catch the weather forecast. Even the efficacy of that is debatable with on-line weather forecasts.

The two local papers: The Tucson Citizen and the Arizona Daily Star both have free on-line versions of their print editions. But truth be told that most stories produced are those that will not offend advertisers. Bottom line: More of the same human interest stories.

The smaller and more locally focused Tucson Weekly (as the name implies it is a weekly not a daily newspaper) actually does investigative reporting - so you will actually find news there from time to time.

Which brings me to the craze of wanting those big screen high-definition televisions: What good are they if all they do is deliver mostly worthless canned news of motion picture like quality and sound into your living room?

In the interest of public service, you can find more information on the upcoming transition to all Digital Television (also known as DTV) including the analog to digital converter box you'll need after February 17, 2009 at NTIA Coupon Program if you want to keep your old analog one-eyed monster.

5:47 AM  
Blogger Michael Lee said...

I know Cory (I have stopped calling him Mr. Farley since he is now the columist AND editor) has kept his list to only ten, but I have one more:

There is always a story about how bad the shopping season is for the stores, in spite of the crowds...

7:56 AM  
Blogger Robert said...

CF does not miss his editor...

CF is ronin...

fortunately the internet provides access to real news sources, some of them outside the USA (please don't rat me out to Fatherland Security, waterboarding plays hell on my hair)...

Cheers,

R-

8:26 AM  
Blogger Atani said...

Have to agree with all the posts so far . The only paper on-line that has anything different could be the "Timesonline.uk" At least you get different dirt from around the world.

Have you ever noticed that most papers only have a tiny section devoted to the world at large - not including our morbid daily death toll from Iraq/Afganistan .

Oh well - Happy seasons to all

8:41 AM  
Blogger mindervillain said...

Meanwhile, how's it going with NORAD's tracking of Santa this year?

9:36 AM  
Blogger rputnam said...

It seems to me that the RGJ assumes you get your (even local) news from some other sources.

I've read editorials commenting on stories on which I have no before hand knowledge as an example.

National and International stories are sort of "Joined program already in progress".

3:05 PM  
Blogger diva ex machina said...

Hey, if you think it's bad having to WRITE those stories, imagine the cognitive dissonance we sentient middle managers have to endure while assigning them. Those expectations come from on high, not from the editors on the front lines. Because the first time you forget to assign a "what's hot for back-to-school" story ... suddenly there's a senior editor (or higher) in your cubicle wondering who's asleep at the wheel.

4:02 PM  
Blogger nopastels said...

Right on regarding the traffic suggestion to slow down in "weather". I have noticed that when it starts to snow, all the high-profile trucks seem to speed up and tail-gate even more.

The only news source mail in that you did not mention is what the "Shrub" and first lady are having for Christmas dinner!

LouiseS

12:43 PM  
Blogger Sharon said...

Mailing it in means that something has already happened. When did reporters start using crystal balls? It might snow - Gas prices might rise at the pumps - Retailers might see a fall in holiday sales - ya know what I mean...?

9:50 PM  
Blogger dwoods48 said...

We were invited to Our High Tech Son's House for Dinner and He actually Has a Wii.. I watched for awhile then I jumped in .. Those things are really Fun... They Have padding on them now and a good wrist strap so that You can't throw the controller into the TV or Through the window when You get excited...

How about that Tiger getting Loose at the SF Zoo. Killed One and Mauled two More. Lets See if anyone gets close to that story..

4:55 AM  
Blogger grumpy old lady said...

I hate sounding so hardhearted as this is, but I'm tired of year after year seeing stories of people who have "fallen on hard times" because of their own actions. I feel very sorry for their children, but angry at the parents.

1:25 PM  
Blogger Ann O. said...

I agree with everything except the crowd stories. I think most people want to read about events they were part of. One, they're interested because they were part of it; two, they want more details for when they're telling the story to their friends and family and, three, they want some perspective. Exactly how big was the crowd? Was I the only one who thought there were more salespeople than customers? What caused the backup on the freeway? How far was traffic backed up? How long was it before traffic was running smoothly again?

Ann Onn Everything
http://blog.annonn.com

3:02 PM  
Blogger BRIAN said...

Seems like I remember some "check your air in the tires" Streetbeat columns in Cory's RGJ days.

That what you mean by mailing it in, Cory? You did it, you know you did it!

11:15 AM  

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