Since I started writing for the local newspaper over a decade ago, this has been a question that I’ve thought quite a bit about. Now, in my position as a nonprofit marketing coordinator, when I have to draft a news release I often have to sort through a barrage of flowery language to get to the core issues that could be considered real news.
Heather’s post intrigued me because she framed her question around the news of the day, or lack of it. Asking why Twitter got more “ink” than Gmail when both had service issues is an interesting way to bring the world of social media into the realm of the news gatekeeper.
I think it would be interesting to inquire of an assignment editor at CNN.com what the thought and decision process was leading up to the posting of the Twitter outage story. Heather pinpoints the probable response–Twitter is new and exciting. Additionally, an outage effects a lot of people. But to that point, so does a service outage of Gmail. The “new and exciting” thing is was will get the coverage, though, simply because it is new. You can’t have “News” without “New.”
Heather’s second example is the more interesting one, however. She asks how Sen. Ted Kennedy can posthumously become a bi-partisan mythical hero, when during his life he was the “poster child for ultra-liberal partisanship.”
She argues that his working with senators from the other side of the aisle while alive didn’t merit coverage, but when he died, that was the shining example of his public service career. It just doesn’t make sense.
However, looking at the context of the story, it does.
I think it was important for the news media to highlight the best qualities of Kennedy after he died. When someone of Kennedy’s stature dies, and for the reasons he died (brian cancer) the media can’t play up the controversy surrounding the individual. Instead, the news media has to search for the positive things to say. As the gatekeepers, they feel a responsibility to direct the course of the immediate conversation about how Kennedy will be crafted. They want to be the drivers.
With the growing influence of social media, however, the opportunity for news media gatekeepers to be the drivers on any story of interest’s immediate conversation is quickly diminishing. That is why it is ever more important for any player in the mediasphere to find the news in a story and get it out there.
In other words, being newsworthy in the age of social media means being direct, interesting, and most importantly engaging.