Discover more from The World is Bent
"Lacking – method and form, nuance and depth, a right to exist."
It's just a snapshot, but I've found it to be a positive day of news judgment at some of the biggest news organizations in the United States.
This week’s soundtrack: Mizmor & Thou - “Subordinate”
I write a lot about how the attention era journalist’s job is to divide the wheat from the chaff. Today featured some good judgment at some of the biggest legacy news organizations. Social media’s influence on mainstream news has warped news coverage, for sure, and the siloing of people’s bubbles has dashed the idea of a monocultural news world.
The World is Bent is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a subscriber.
The top stories on six mainstream, legacy news orgs – I chose FoxNews.com, WSJ.com, CNN.com, NYtimes.com, APnews.com and Washingtonpost.com – are mostly normal. CNN, the Times, AP and the Post all feature the prisoner swap as the top story. I suspect, even with that placement, the story will not drive traffic, but I salute those new organizations for making the decision – whether or not I agree with it – to feature what their editors feel is the most important story up top.
Not shockingly, Fox and WSJ are more audience-centric in their top story presentations. At WSJ, the top story is economy-focused; the finance sector’s nominal paper of record woul certainly consider that story more important to its audience than the prisoner swap. At Fox, the prisoner swap merits a breaking news banner, but otherwise, the murder of a police officer merits the top story treatment. Considering Fox and its audience subscribe to the thesis that “the world is a terrifying place, you should be scared and the answer is more men in uniforms with guns,” it tracks that a comparatively minor story would lead the site.
The top story on any of the biggest sites online doesn’t necessarily drive the conversation, broadly (especially as I write this on a Monday morning). Search trends suggest that the Dallas Cowboys and iOS 17 are the among most important things on American Googlers’ minds right now, after all. But, it is illustrative that these news organizations are placing these stories where they place them and how they compare.
It’s an interesting reminder that the tail doesn’t always wag the dog. There are more, let’s say, prurient – recent stories about Lauren Boebert, Hunter Biden and Donald Trump all come to mind – stories that could drive traffic on these sites. Fox has Hunter Biden in the second story slot – probably the least surprising thing you’ll read today – but he’s down the page on the other sites. The news decisions that brought us to the saturation of the submersible story… this is is not as regular as doomsayers like me have said.
(Edit: In the hour or so of editing/shaping this newsletter after I wrote it, Fox News change its top story to feature the prisoner swap.
Fox, of course, put its spin on the story in the headline, a decidedly partisan notion that Biden was handing over all this money to “terror-sponsor Iran.” But, it did seemingly join other news orgs in featuring the story of the day as its main story, even though it may not drive audience like a murdered cop might.)
Later this month, I have to board Lulu for a few days, which isn’t a big deal normally. But, there is a problem this year: vaccines. I’m pro-vaccine in all ways (I got my flu shot and scheduled an updated COVID-19 booster, only to find out that CVS had run out of it) and Lulu is up-to-date on all of shots. Or so I thought.
Turns out that the canine flu vaccine is in a nationwide shortage. Not a big deal normally, but Lulu usually gets hers around the time I get my own flu shot. Which means that the place I board her needs her to get said shot and my vet doesn’t have it. Nor do most of the other local vets I called. So, I now have to get a membership to one of those concierge vet practices just to get my dog one damned shot. I’m sorry to complain here in the newsletter, but I needed to get it off my chest.
A Recommendation: A Sharpie,
a Notepad and a To-Do List
In my career in journalism, I’ve had to use about a million different “productivity” tools. The organizational ones are all valuable for scale and for projects, but nothing has beat the ol’ to-do list for me.
Early in my time working with him, I noted that my old boss Tom Shoop would use a legal pad and a pen in our meetings. I, like a fool, would use my computer to take notes, but Tom would write it down on a big pad, easy to find. I still take notes on my computer, but each day, I write a to-do list with a regular old Sharpie. It keeps me on task for long-term projects better than anything online.
If you’re not subscribed, you can do so right here!