The oxymoron of 24 hour news

What is news and what makes something newsworthy?  I looked it up on dictionary.com and it said, “a report of a recent event; intelligence; information” and “a person, thing, or event considered as a choice subject for journalistic treatment.”  I think these are pretty adequate definitions of news.

However, when a subject for “journalistic treatment” has been run into the ground courtesy of 24 hour news outlets, is it really news?  Maybe it was initially, but after a while, when there have been no new developments, it really is just the same news story told and re-told by journalists who have to fill their 2-4 hour segment before the next one takes the desk.  Journalists must be under extreme pressure to just keep talking just in case someone who wasn’t tuned in two minutes ago might have missed something.

Not only that, I think journalists are also under a huge amount of pressure from the networks to put their “spin” on things just to make it stand out from the rest.  We see this happen every day with talking heads and political pundits.  Take, for example, the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin case.  Very little was said about it initially, but after a month had gone by and Zimmerman had not be formally charged with any crime and protests started, the media took it as a sign to run with all sorts of speculations as to why, and of course the speculative experts were called in to weigh in on something that they did not have first-hand knowledge of.  Now the media say that the “news” is that George Zimmerman may be unable to get a fair trial.  Is that true because of the previous coverage and all of the bias for an against his arrest, or is that because the media just now implanted the idea that he may not be able to receive a fair trial?

This happens all the time due to the nature of the 24-hour news cycle!  In fact, I would go so far as to say that calling 24-hour news cycles “news” is a bit of an oxymoron.  Look at any bit of the coverage for the GOP presidential candidates.  If it is even possible, politicians sound less sincere every day and less knowledgeable about almost everything because they have to deal with media scrutiny in their faces 24/7.  In addition to the recycling and recreating of headlines, these same journalists are under a huge amount of pressure to get the story out there first…after all, there is no break in the news coverage on multiple channels.  This further leads to getting facts wrong just for the sake of telling the story first.

I appreciate the fact that I can go on the web and look up cnn.com or some other news outlet and get today’s stories when I want them.  But part of me really misses the days of newspapers being the most credible sources and television coverage only happening at 6, 12, 6, and 11:00.  This seemed to give me a sense that the news had been fact-checked first and it was, in fact, news to me when it was reported.

My question is this: how can we as PR professionals make sure that our message gets out there, yet mitigate the negative issues that come along with 24-hour news coverage?

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