Misconceptions about the News

Comforting the Afflicted and Afflicting the Comfortable

Jose 3 Comments

Misconceptions about the News

Misconceptions about the News

There’s a famous quote that journalists learn every so often when it comes to the news:

” The job of the newspaper is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”
– Finley Peter Dunne

It seems to be the general theme that I come across when I talk to newsies and other affiliates about the profession of news delivering. On the one end, journalists are entrusted by millions across the nation to deliver the day’s news. Even those of us who blog largely get our news from the big kids like the New York Times, Washington Post, the AP, and Reuters. Of course, that’s why it’s imperative for the news to be as balanced as possible, not just in ideology, but also in content.

But that’s where most networks fall flat on their faces. Even when they do a reasonable job of just reporting the facts, they still get caught up in that Murdochian mentality of keeping as much negativity in the news as possible for ratings. All we hear about is the terrible economy, the war, the murders, fires and firings, but never have a balance of what real people do, the rescues, the charity work, community service, the fun and exciting.

I’m asking for a lot, especially because the news is often criticized for not being everything for all people. The more well-informed of us want to hear more positive stories but at the same time want journalists to be more poignant with their coverage of things. They’d like more independent voices rather than the cronyism and tepid coverage we’ve gotten as a result of the media manipulation by corporations and ideologues. Jay Rosen has recently been twittering about “safety”

You know why there are bloggers, @Newshour? Because there is “safety first” reasoning in news. People get sick of it and take up their pens.

And that’s the crux of our existence. It isn’t so much that we want to take your jobs (as Pandagon so eloquently posits here), it’s that we want you to do your jobs as well as you can. Make things interesting. Report the good and the bad. Don’t limit the amount of good news to a 30 second segment because you know that 10 minute segment on the rough times will get you better ratings than the other network. Those of us who want to be informed want the news unfiltered and raw, and the closer you get to the “truth,” the better.  That’s why cable shows, as far as this informal eye can see, do better amongst my readers than the network news does.

Again, I’ve never taken a journalism class in my life nor do I profess to know what the editors and producers of the hundreds of news channels know, but as a consumer, I do have an understanding of what others are and have been saying about the news. Of course, if that’s news to you, then I guess we’re not watching the same thing.

Jose, who doesn’t believe no news is good news for the news you don’t know can kill you …

About Jose Vilson

José Luis Vilson is a math educator, blogger, speaker, and activist. For more of my writing, buy my book This Is Not A Test: A New Narrative on Race, Class, and Education, on sale now.

Jose VilsonComforting the Afflicted and Afflicting the Comfortable

Comments 3

  1. NYC Educator

    I also notice the haste of certain news organizations to report what they consider to be both sides of an issue even when one side has no merit whatsoever. Sean Hannity may cover many issues on a given night but that’s no indication that any deserve serious consideration by anyone. Yet nonsense on Fox gets repeated until it ends up being seriously considered on other MSM outlets.

    And the same is true of education, where “reformers” like Michelle Rhee make the cover of Time, despite running on records that cannot be verified and an utter lack of accomplishment.

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