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Commoditizing the news

Interesting bit in the New Yorker on covering earthquakes:

Upon repetition, covering earthquakes gradually became less pure. The reason is that as a newspaper correspondent, at least, one became schooled in the editor-feeding subgenres of earthquake coverage. These subgenre stories passed like months on a calendar across the twelve days that generally constitutes the entire attention span of editors, broadcast producers, and their audiences. Subgenre pearls which one can anticipate from Haiti but about which one should perhaps not be overly cynical include: The Late Miracle, approximately on day five, in which an improbable survivor is dug out by heroic search teams from a foreign country; The Interpretation of Meaning, a story to be filed on Sundays in Christian cultures and Fridays in Muslim ones, chronicling the efforts of religious leaders to explain God’s will in this instance (I recall sitting, riveted, on a press platform in Tehran, listening to Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani deliver a remarkable Friday sermon about science and Allah); and Heading to the Exits, in which the laundry-less journalist forecasts a slow recovery complicated by political fallout and imperfect relief efforts, while implying that he/she will return over the ensuing months to chronicle the full course of the recovery.

Newspapers reduce most of the news to a series of formulas. They turn it into a commodity that can be easily refined, shipped and stored: The disaster, the holiday travel, the underdog, the heinous criminal, the little-guy victim, the trend, the weather. Maybe it makes their readers feel safer. Eyes glaze over, turn the page, just another disaster.

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