“What Makes A Great News Story?”

A terrific read, Liberal MP Glen Pearson offers some thought provoking insights into the media culture that dominates Ottawa. I’m reminded of a CBCNN self promotion commercial, wherein "what makes a great story?" gives a list of essential key ingredients. One thing is clear, it isn’t so much a search for truth, but a search for a compelling story that motivates. Add in a dash of learned cynicism and the dynamic Pearson speaks to becomes apparent.

Canada is blessed with so many great journalists, reporters, meaning any critique isn’t some sweeping condemnation. That said, as Susan Delacourt writes this morning on twitter, if you "dish it out, you should be able to take it", and that’s a very healthy, reinvigorating perspective. To often the questioners get defensive the moment the spotlight turns and a critical eye is cast. I chalk that reaction to simple human nature, everyone loves to be the criticizer(self included), but nobody likes to be criticized. However, it is imperative that media constantly re-examine, otherwise the medium becomes stale, predictable and fails to live up to it’s supposed part of the bargain in our democracy.

It’s the pursuit of the story, as Pearson details, and if it lacks juicy bits it fails to be relevant. In addition, if a story has that required edge, it is overblown, exaggerated and given far more attention that it deserves. What is really going on, and what is reported, becomes warped beyond belief, to the point where it no longer speaks to the reality at hand. I would submit, this circumstance is dangerous, because Canadians have no other true window into our political system.

I’ve mentioned term limits for journalists before, a point Pearson raises. I mean that in jest in one sense, because they are many seasoned journalists in Ottawa that are treasures, their wisdom and experience irreplaceable. However, let’s call it the cynic quotient, which can afflict any age group, and when it it reached, the analysis, the emphasis, fails to have any relevance or inherent worth. To be more specific, the immediate "scoff" take, on every issue imaginable, wherein it’s all game play, it’s all posturing, that perspective is maddening and indicative of someone who’s become to jaded to matter. 

Canadians are tuning it out, journalists know this well, ratings, circulation don’t lie. With this harsh reality in mind, maybe it’s time for rethink on "what makes a great story?", because from here, it looks like the audience doesn’t necessarily agree.

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