Tuesday, April 22, 2008

If You're Watching It Live...

...it ain't news.

Someone needs to inscribe that above the doors of every cable news network office.

This weekend, both CNN and Fox devoted seemingly interminable amounts of air time to the Pope's New York visit. Was the visit important? Yes. Was it newsworthy? Yes.

However, the essence of news is the distillation of events into cogent, concise, informative units. If you want the war news, you don't want to watch the entire war in real time. If you want traffic news, you don't want to simply watch the road in real time all day long. You want a responsible news agency to scrutinize those events, remove the dross, and give you the important parts that remain.

But it's far easier to fill several hours of news time by running events in their entirity live... and when you have to fill 24 hours at a very expensive per-hour cost, it's probably far easier and cheaperto set up a camera, point it at someone like the Pope, and then let it run for several hours.

But it ain't news.


Anonymous said...

I think the millions of Catholics in this country (including the illegal ones...) would probably disagree with you. His visit to this country, especially that this is his first, is very important to them. I would imagine that future visits won't garnish as much coverage.

cliff said...

I don't think so. I believe that most people, regardless of religion, are able to discern the essence of news. The pope's visit is important; however, continual live coverage isn't news. News coverage is charged with the duty of distilling; continual live coverage involves no distillation.