I’ve been struggling for a pithy way to articulate this to myself and haven’t quite made it, but I wanted to get it down on paper, or pixels or whatever. It seems to me that a good, responsible, useful news story will either discuss a news event that’s important to people’s lives in and of itself or, if not independently important, is a fair representation of something larger that is important.
War erupts, a tax is imposed, your street is going to be closed – these are things that have their own importance. Family struggles because job is displaced by automation; Joe, like many others, is an addict and here are his struggles – both are important stories even though they don’t necessarily have a direct impact on readers if it’s in fact true that there is a statistically significant trend in job displacement or addictions.
Local politician or important politician says something awful – maybe news worthy. Random college kid, celebrity, back-bencher from far flung district says something awful – not so much. Again, I think the question is: does the news truly have an impact on our reader’s lives and/or is the story truly representative of something significant in the world? There is obviously a lot of grey area here, but I guess what I’m getting at is that if the media outlet is telling stories about something not particularly representative or substantial, just to push your emotional buttons or sate your desire to laugh at freak shows, that outlet isn’t doing you or society much good. It’s just manipulating you for profit and likely eroding the community by showing you the world through a fun house mirror.