It’s a paper – but is it “news”?
Idaho Falls newspaper readers used to expect to read actual news in their paper – you know, events happening locally, in the nation and around the world. Recently, discriminating readers who have access to other news sources must ask if the paper has abandoned it’s traditional role.
Two cases in point:
Recently the Idaho Falls paper neglected to report a request for leniency by former county and city prosecutor Kimball Mason, convicted of corruption, until several days after the fact. The Pocatello television station apparently broke the story at least one if not two days earlier. (Though KPVI has the story dated July 25, I read it on their site on July 24. The paper reported it on July 26.) See related post.
And today, when national news stations and internet news sites are crushed under burgeoning stories of the 6:10pm, MDT, Minneapolis bridge collapse, the Idaho Falls paper relegates the story to minimal space on page 5.
I can hear the newspaper editorial staff now: a bridge collapse in Minneapolis is hardly news in Idaho Falls.
I beg to differ, for a variety of reasons.
First, every motorist in the nation drives over bridges every day, with nary a thought to their structural integrity. We trust our government engineers implicitly. Failures like this are only supposed to happen in third world nations. Perhaps we are not safe on our roads and bridges.
Second, every American must admit to at least the fleeting thought that this disaster may have been caused by terrorists. We are currently being assured that this is not the case, but certainly in-depth investigations will take months, if not years.
It is possible, indeed, likely, that some Idaho Falls residents have lived in Minneapolis, and/or have friends or family there. They, of course, are very anxious for news on the tragedy.
And finally, there is the basic human interest element when cars, pedestrians and cyclists are unexpectedly plummeted into a large river, and the resulting rescue operation commences.
In defense of the newspaper, today’s front page stories are of some local interest: a graduate of an Idaho Falls high school works to conquer bacterial antibiotic resistance; the police department takes bids on firearms in the evidence room (since Kimball Mason is no longer helping himself to them), and – SURPRISE! – the Boy Scouts are 100 years old. (The newspaper has a long-standing history of hatred of the Boy Scouts of America.) But nothing with the urgency of a bridge collapse. These stories were written and submitted hours or days before last evening’s disaster.
Still, many Idaho Falls residents must be scratching their heads this morning. Is it laziness on the part of newspaper workers, who must “put the paper to bed” before they themselves can go home? Is it misjudgment? In the case of the Kimball Mason story, is it failure to adequately gather the news? Is it simply an acceptable liability of printing an early morning newspaper? Or are newspaper employees so insulated from the outside world that they failed to gauge the enormity of the Minneapolis catastrophe?
Whatever the cause, more and more local residents will be turning to other sources for their news. And perhaps that is a good thing.
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