I came across two blog posts yesterday that offer reminders of how the prevailing view of what’s news needs to change.
First, Alan Mutter calls out The Oklahoman for wildly overplaying a story about a U.S. Geological Survey project mapping out where burmese pythons could survive in an ever-warmer U.S. The study found that the pythons “could colonize one-third of the USA, from San Francisco across the Southwest, Texas and the South and up north along the Virginia coast,” according to USA Today. The Oklahoman’s story examined the finding that most of Oklahoma is now a possible python habitat, and concluded in the fourth paragraph that
Even though the pythons might find Oklahoma’s weather suitable, local wildlife experts don’t expect to run into any of the massive constrictors any time soon.
Nonetheless, the piece ran as the front-page lead story with a large, two-deck headline reading: “Big snakes could slither into state.”
The story, of course, says no such thing. Mutter asks, “why did the Oklahoman play this non-story in the sensational fashion it did?” I think the answer — besides simple bad editorial judgment — is that papers fear running interesting stories just for the sake of running an interesting story. There has to be some ostensible “news peg” or other timely reason for running the story.