Why Report Stories That Aren’t Newsworthy?

Why Report Stories That Aren’t Newsworthy?

Everyone needs to make money, but you shouldn’t try to cash in at the expense of other peoples’ livelihoods. Yet that is what news organizations can do when they blow a story way out of proportion, on purpose, even when there is nothing newsworthy to report. They splash a salacious, juicy, provocative headline that has nothing to do with the facts, to lure us into clicking on the articles for what purpose? Selling ad space maybe? At what expense though? Lost reputations and wasted time? Consumers looking at boring articles? Quick conversations over the dinner table? Easily forgotten and at what expense? A lost reputation? A good job? A healthy family?

I’m tired of feeling used this way. Recently there was a complete non-event that was used for clicks, at the expense of good people who did all the right things. A producer on a television show hugged one of the writers from the side. She felt uncomfortable, so she told her higher-ups, and requested that he do an hour of sensitivity training. He not only did that, but he took an entire sensitivity course. The writer was satisfied and asked that the producer not be punished, because, as she put it, she believed that the important thing is that people should be open to education and learning from their experience, and that is what happened in that situation. She was right to go to HR with her concerns. The response of the media was to attack her credibility and reputation.

Not much to report here, yet the 60-year old British producer in question is being painted across the media as a perp, even though the writer was happy with the action he took in response! And she is being painted as someone who is not satisfied with her job despite following appropriate guidelines bringing it to HR. Why do this, even though it’s contrary to the facts of what happened? For clicks. To make a couple of bucks off our eyeballs wasting our time? I guess it was a slow news day and this was the best thing they could come up with.

The craziest part is that if anyone was going to write a story about this non-incident, it wouldn’t be about the inciting incident (which again, the writer feels is completely resolved), but about the way the writer who complained was treated by her superiors at CBS! Her real issue here is how she feels, CBS retaliated. Doesn’t seem like HR handled the complaint in the best possible way. But the problem is, “Human Resources at CBS May Not Have Handled Workplace Dispute Correctly” doesn’t get clicks. So those aren’t the headlines we see. Instead, it’s taking something as innocuous as a side hug (which is then handled in exactly the way the person who complained wanted it to be handled) and making it into something huge and unrelated. I think she is smart to report how she felt and he is right to go about the sensitivity training. This is what it means to communicate fairly.

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The news organizations get credit from the publishers who worry about the stories. I hope in the future they think about the consequences of reporting stories in this way.

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