Deciding what news to broadcast


In my first blog post, I wrote about how news programs are becoming increasingly lenient about their definition of news.  On Monday, Al Sunshine, a former Miami broadcast journalist, spoke to one of my classes.  He brought up another issue: Do we, as journalists, give our audiences what they want or need to hear?

Audiences might want to hear about the latest celebrity gossip: who slept with whom, who’s pregnant, who was caught doing drugs in the bathroom. Other than entertainment, that news has no effect on most people’s daily lives.

But people need to hear about other issues. They need to know about unexpected weather conditions. They need to know about the latest disease outbreak. They might not want to, but they need to know what politicians are doing with their tax money (even if it isn’t scandalous).

So how do you decide what to give audiences?  An obvious solution would be to air both types of stories.  With time and space limits, though, that is impractical. Companies air stories that are of popular interest because they attract the most viewers. However, when it comes down to it, the need to know about certain issues trumps media companies’ concerns about viewership and profitability.

Sometimes, stories can be an issue of life or death. For example, if a certain toy has been recalled because of a toxic part, parents need to know to take it away from their children.

If there is time to air only one story, one that is either popular or critical, is there really an option here?

Could any journalist with a sense of human dignity choose better ratings over the chance to save someone’s life?  Is it better to risk concealing potentially lifesaving information than to risk boring some audience members for a couple minutes?

There is a reason it’s called NEEDING to know, and we must remember this when deciding which news to broadcast.  This way, there will be no guilt hanging over journalists’ heads if they do their best to tell viewers anything that might be vital.

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