19
Oct
09

Are we becoming obsessed with soft news?


Ask anyone what the most important issues in the world are today and one,two or all of the items in the list below are likely to come up. This is no particular order:
Iran, the war in Afghanistan, the economic downturn, Russia, global warming, Pakistan attacks, Middle East peace, China, Iraq

On a global scale, these are the most important stories – yes ?. These are the stories we are most interested in, right? According to one or two indices, wrong.

They are not what we are most interested in, judging by news websites in across the globe.

These are a few examples of news sites across the globe and their most read, emailed or commented on stories today. The Times of India, The Moscow Times, CNN, The Times of Nigeria , The Independent .

On Friday relentless attacks on Pakistan continued with a fresh one in Peshawar. Yet the two stories that lead on most news channel were: The balloon boy story, (still top news on CNN today) and the Australian baby in the stroller who escaped death by a train.

So, are we becoming obsessed with soft news? Surely what should interest us as humans are relevant subjects like global warming and the world food crisis. Instead we tend to gravitate towards the unusual and the bizarre.

britney shavedWe want to read about Britney Spears shaving her head and Jade Goody’s last pictures. When Michael Jackson died some news channels ran on it for days (given Michael Jackson is a huge deal but we still had some criticism at WHYS for doing it twice from two different angles but it was what people were talking about)

jacko

So, are we interested in the wrong things then? Should we care more about the issues that matter like Middle East peace and Global warming? Is it the media’s fault for not making these serious stories more interesting and attention grabbing or is it human nature to tilt towards the abnormal? With Afghanistan and Pakistan making news headlines everyday, is it normal that we lose interest and when Balloon Boy comes up we’re instantly hooked?

And does our interest in theses stories show that we’re well rounded? We’re interested in Falcon Heene’s story (balloon boy) and the Pakistan attacks, in the Australian baby and the economic downturn.

This was before my time, but Mark  was speaking to someone in the World Service newsroom a couple of years ago explaining that WHYS is all about what people are talking about and not necessarily about the news agenda. This person replied saying: Well in this case today you should be discussing the man who married his goat ! When this story came out it was one of the bloodiest months in Iraq yet, ‘ Sudanese Man Forced to Marry His Goat’ was the most read story on the BBC website.

What was the story that grabbed your attention today? I’ll start, and I’ll be very very honest. It was this one.


109 Responses to “Are we becoming obsessed with soft news?”


  1. 1 patti in cape coral
    October 19, 2009 at 13:05

    Ros, say it ain’t so! :0) Just speaking for myself, I know that there are always more important things we could be discussing other than entertainment issues, women’s bodies, kids in helium balloons, babies on the train tracks, etc., but sometimes talking about Iran, Afghanistan. global warming, etc., makes you feel so heavy in your heart, and after a while the arguments become circular and contentious. Sometimes it’s a relief to get off the more serious track.

    As for what news grabbed my attention today? It’s still early, but yesterday when I was hopping on a Greyhound bus they were showing the footage of the baby rolling towards the train tracks in the station. That was really shocking. Otherwise, have barely had any time this weekend to check things out, real life has been intruding on my time!

    • 2 patti in cape coral
      October 19, 2009 at 16:24

      I’m so sorry Shaimaa, that comment was actually for you, my fingers got ahead of my brain! Hate to sound like an elitist snob, but until I clicked on your link I knew absolutely nothing about that story and wasn’t interested. I do listen to the music, though.

    • 3 Julie in Indianapolis Indiana
      October 19, 2009 at 16:42

      To patti –

      Women’s bodies and perception issues are central to the human condition and how we treat ourselves and one another. I am saddened more by your callous association of the latest entertainment news of the “balloon boy” with issues such as this, than by a discussion of war and real life which some people in this world do not have the luxury of busily dismissing because of their own self importance.

      • 4 patti in cape coral
        October 19, 2009 at 16:53

        Wow Julie, a little harsh. I don’t mean to say that how women perceive themselves is not important, just less important than people killing each other in war and starving in third world countries. It’s all relative. And of course, balloon boy is even less important, though to many it may also be an important statement about our hunger for publicity.

      • 5 Julie in Indianapolis Indiana
        October 19, 2009 at 17:48

        Patti-

        Your’re right – that was harsh. I appologize. This topic really hits a nerve. Importance is relative to a degree, its true. But the general lack of perspective that I personally come into contact with on a daily basis is staggering. My comfort is found in programs and dialogues like this.

  2. October 19, 2009 at 13:05

    -Iran
    -Afghanistan war
    -Economic downturn
    -Russia
    -Global warming
    -Pakistan attacks
    -Middle East peace
    -China
    -Iraq

    In each of those stories, the news is just a variation on a theme that’s been running for years. The story of Iran is the same as it was last year and the year before. Same with global warming or China or Russia.

    The pram was completely random. We didn’t expect that to happen.

    • 7 patti in cape coral
      October 19, 2009 at 18:22

      @Julie in Indianapolis – No problem, apology accepted, and I understand when a topic hits a nerve and triggers a very passionate response in us. I’m sorry I came across as self important, but it’s not the worst thing I have been called!Maybe that’s the point, if a topic is relevant to us, we don’t see it as “soft” news?

  3. 8 Nigel
    October 19, 2009 at 13:26

    @ Shaima

    Is it that there is an element of “Information Overload” and just too many serious issues in play causing people to want to take a vacation away from them and enjoy the lighter less important issues as recreation?

    • October 19, 2009 at 14:46

      Hi Nigel,

      Yes, I agree with you. When we were talking about this in the meeting this afternoon we mentioned story fatigue. When Iran, Iraq, the economy etc… are in the news everyday , sometimes you want to switch off with soft news. And that’s why the first story I read today was an entertainment story.

  4. October 19, 2009 at 13:36

    As for what grabbed my attention.. Berlosconi again (can Italy be kicked out of the EU – surely they don’t meet the entry requirements?), the Panorama thing about racism, Microsoft Windows 7, Usain Bolt playing cricket, and Nasa finally seeing that plume they were so excited about (a discussion on who owns the moon and what right Nasa has to shoot at it might be interesting), – which is a couple of days old, but I only read of it today.

  5. 11 T
    October 19, 2009 at 13:46

    Some people still don’t know where Iraq is. Some don’t know the difference between Al-Quaeda and the Taliban. But the MSM is determined to tell us every single detail of David Letterman’s legendary sex life. Because it’s “news”. Who’s fault is that?

  6. 12 Dennis Junior
    October 19, 2009 at 14:16

    Shaimaa Khalil:::

    Yes, we’ve been obsessed with “soft-news” for better part of the past 20 years….But, we also, have times of “obsession with hard news….

    *Dennis Junior*

  7. October 19, 2009 at 14:24

    How about we talk about Iraq, Afghanistan, the Arab Israeli struggle, ect., ect., and all of those apparantly boring topics from a personal perspective ?! After all, it’s people who matter at the end of the day, and it’s people who make a news story significant and close to our hearts so that we can relate to it and feel its impact on human beings like us… WHYS has managed successfully over the years to personalise some really serious and intense news stories and give us, its loyal listeners, a first hand account of what’s really like to be in the shoes of people involved in those stories, so Bravo WHYS, really Bravo… With my love… Yours forever, Lubna in Baghdad…

  8. October 19, 2009 at 14:30

    And as for what has captured my attention today, it is the latest Jerusalem diary by Tim Franks on the BBC News Middle East page in which he interviewed an Israeli pornographer, I gotta say that despite everything I did find that piece quite interesting…

  9. 17 Roy, Washington DC
    October 19, 2009 at 14:31

    Following things like the balloon boy story doesn’t mean that we are any less interested in Iraq or Afghanistan; it just means that something else is going on in the world that might let us take our minds off of the Middle East for a while.

  10. 18 robert
    October 19, 2009 at 14:50

    We need a balance between hard news and soft news.

    But I fear that soft news gets reported more because of the ease at which it can be reported. The explosion in TV and internet news space means something has to fill it. Why let a reporter do an indepth report that takes a month to investigate when they can do one soft story a day to fill the airwaves.

  11. October 19, 2009 at 14:50

    Hi Shaimaa Khalil
    I like fashion but I naturally focus on what will effect my life and that of my family in this part of the world.
    Mustering support for a particular cause is also important. It all depends how you tell a story.
    The unrest in Pakistan is related to Iran. Afghanistan is important because I see 50 Afghan refugees huddled together looking for work on the corner as I go shopping. The world is becoming smaller every day, so I sit up, look and listen and try to understand.

  12. 20 Miguel
    October 19, 2009 at 14:53

    I dont think those statistics reveal the importance each one of us gives to each story.

    Nowadays, we see news with the same tone: war in Iraq, healthcare issues, the financial meltdown, etc. But there is always a different story, such as the ballon boy, which grabs attention just because it is different than every other piece of news. Imagine a set of 10 green balls and 1 red ball. The red one would grab more attention than the green ones, wouldnt it? I think it is just as simple as that.

  13. October 19, 2009 at 14:53

    I wonder how do Iraqis, Afghans, Iranians, ect., ect., feel about all of this, or do their feelings about this matter any way ?! With my love… Yours forever, Lubna in Baghdad, Iraq…

  14. October 19, 2009 at 14:56

    For me, there will always be more important issues to talk about apart from who was or was not in a helium balloon and why; what a woman should look like; who has had a haircut etc. I don’t propose that we should spend inordinate time talking about Iraq and Afghanistan either. But I think what we should all bear in mind is that we don’t have to have our say every day; some days we will find the issue on the news worth commenting, other days, it isn’t worth a second thought.
    We don’t have to follow every news item just because someone said it was the most read.

  15. 23 Jennifer
    October 19, 2009 at 15:12

    If by soft news you mean stories that contribute to sensationalism then I think we have long been obsessed with that type of story. All hype.

    We have had breakthroughs in some topics that move us along in our following stories like the global warming hype, the economy, the middle east. These things do change as time does on; so we should revisit those topics accordingly.

    The baby in stroller story was not “soft news” there is alot to learn from anyone seeing the video. Maybe seeing this video will prevent something tragic from occurring in the future.

    • October 19, 2009 at 16:50

      GOO DAY MAINLY IN AFRICA WE ALL DESIRES GOOD THINGS BUT THE SOURCES TO ARCHIVE IT IS PROBLEM , TO SOME OF WE AFRICANS IRENA US CHINEDU GOD GRACE,

    • 25 nora
      October 19, 2009 at 18:20

      global warming is hype? perhaps it is easier to talk about Elvis shaped clouds and two headed babies with religious fanatics and right wing dogmatists who like to hate on ecologists and trample womens reproductive rights.

  16. 26 jens
    October 19, 2009 at 15:17

    it is not a matter of soft or hard news, it is a matter of attention deficit. it is easier to watch a 20 sec clip of a the woman losing control of the pram, than having to think about the complexity of international conflicts. plus the woman with the pram is a one day event, the warsd in Iraq has been going for years.

  17. October 19, 2009 at 15:19

    Trivial or sensational news sadly grab the headlines while news that really matter are pushed into the background. This commentary reflects how shallow the majority of people are! Newspaper editors could make the difference provided they are more ethical and less interested in titilating their readers; sensational stories sell newspapers even in recessionary times! In the final analysis serious stories are the ones that really matter. so let’s stick to reason and not sensation.

  18. 28 Darrin Auxier
    October 19, 2009 at 15:23

    Yes, we are obsessed with “fluff” stories instead of real news. This is why I get most of my news through RSS feeds – I can easily sift through the garbage. This has been going on for many years, and there are several symptoms, but the root problem is that news and entertainment have become intertwined.

    Looking back, the first large-scale example I can remember is the first Gulf War – 24hour coverage of a war zone. Obviously the Gulf War was newsworthy, what I’m saying is that NO story should warrant 24-hour coverage. Nothing really changes on a minute-to-minute basis. People were thirsty for news and so they stayed glued to the story in the hopes that a nugget of new information would be presented.

    That was followed a few years later by the O.J. saga – first “the chase” then the trial – hours and hours of coverage and people were glued to the TV (only this time it wasn’t something of any significance on a global scale).

  19. October 19, 2009 at 15:26

    People tend to prefer soft news because it relates most to them. The story of the the Australian baby in the stroller who escaped death by a train can have more relevance to parents than the ongoing wars in distant parts of the world. From this story, they can learn to be more attentive with their children. It has a global human meaning.

    Actually hard news interests only those closely related to it. As an example, in 1994 when there was the barbaric killing of more than 800,000 people in Rwanda, no reaction came out of the Arab World in the form of public protests or official condemnation. But when Israel kills a score of Palestinians through bombardment as it happened in Gaza, there is widespread protests among Arabs and Muslims.

    Maybe people seek an easy life. They don’t want to tarnish it with news about blood in the comfort of one’s living room.

  20. 30 Eric in France
    October 19, 2009 at 15:29

    Basically, we are animals. Sex is our 1st drive and Internet traffic confirms that. Beyond sex, we are also social. We care about the ones of others like no other animals do even not chimps. That is human empathy.

    We need to exercice that quality and we feel deeply for that mother even if it lasts the time of video. The number of web sites with such videos is a cry for more local and true life. Modern life does not offer much time for gossiping.

    I guess that our interests are like the layers of an onion. We are genuinely interested by what goes on 3000km from where we live. But closer it is, stronger it remains. The economic crisis is illusive by itself unless I am unemployed. I feel about it if millions are impacted, because I know that my inner circle might suffer. Then it is close to me.

    However, technology is commoditising information creating pseudo bonds where far seems close. Then being selective will limit our true ability for empathy. That is the true risk of our society, because it is as much obsession than willing blindness. Do we really want our freedom to think?

    Cheers

  21. 31 VictorK
    October 19, 2009 at 15:33

    I don’t think that ‘we’ are particularly obsessive about soft news. Is there evidence? Would an obsession with ‘hard news’ be any better?

    It’s more important that people should be able to rate news at its right value, distinguish between soft and hard, enjoy soft items, and take an intelligent interest – or disinterest – in hard ones (including being sceptical about our news sources). I worry more about corporate media dictating what is and isn’t newsworthy, and adulterating news content with opinion & partisanship.

    Some hard news is tedious; ignoring it is can be the best thing to do.

  22. 32 paul8222
    October 19, 2009 at 15:34

    A lot of questions/issues, all at once; further points raised by other people.

    The boy in the balloon & the baby in the buggy-human interest, initially highly vulnerable people evoking compassion. The first turns to probable sick hoax; the baby’s escape miraculous, a rarity in a worlld of doom & gloom.

    Yes. perhaps we have had enough of Baluchistan & points West & North. The mind looks for distraction in gloom.

    Probaly one of the above points is right that we look for a balance in news. What we talk about may however just what gets under our skin & gives us an excuse to sound off.

  23. 33 Tom K in Mpls
    October 19, 2009 at 15:37

    If I knew them, it would mean something. As it is, maybe 10% get a look from me. These failed. What is good about the balloon one, it seems they had a taste of ‘fame’ and wanted more. They played on the societal weakness you mentioned, and now they will pay.

    I’ve had my ‘fame’, 10 minutes on the show ‘Trauma: Life in the ER’ and as an impromptu panelist on Africa Have Your Say’. It’s fun, but nothing to strive for.

  24. 34 Tony from Singapura
    October 19, 2009 at 15:41

    I have become totally desesitized to suicide bomb attacks. I need only to know that they have occured, I have no need to sit through whole minutes of TV footage of the carnage anymore.

    Once you have seen the results of one suicide car bomb, you basically have them all covered.

  25. 35 Gary Paudler
    October 19, 2009 at 15:44

    Who’s we? It took 20 seconds to fully understand the balloon boy story but the reportage went on for days. Presumably the news outlets figured that, if they shifted to geo-politics, their viewers would change the channel to find BB coverage elsewhere. Then those viewers would see the other network’s advertisements and buy a different heartburn remedy and our advertisers won’t like that. That’s the journalistic calculation that determines our news mix. Also, serving the BB-brains doesn’t cost much, no foreign correspondents, no expert analysis, no cultural or political or ethical ambiguity. It’s worse than information overload or attention deficit; We are involved in seemingly intractable situations around the world because, among the masses, there’s insufficient interest in the “hard news” around those crises. It’s just brown people somewhere far away; who cares, I’ve got stuff to buy, and our leaders, such as they are, know how little we care and calibrate their actions based on criteria other than the well-informed demands of their citizenry.
    Present company excepted.

  26. 36 Anthony
    October 19, 2009 at 15:45

    Well, in the States, people don’t feel close to the over seas drama. Maybe during the year or 2 after 9/11, but now we don’t worry about that stuff because it doesn’t hit home.

    -Anthony, LA, CA

  27. 37 Robert Macala
    October 19, 2009 at 15:47

    In the U.S. our media is managed by forces outside of classic journalistic ideals.
    During the height of the Iraq war, the Michael Jackson’s trial and abortion and the
    right to an honorable ending of life issues dominated the media. The chaos in the middle East is not critically reported on because critical analysis would mean
    taking a hard look at Israel, America’s much favored ally. So the major media
    is mute on this major world wide issue that really controls global concerns. The winsome, quirky, and superficial are the only safe and politically neutral news
    items. Of course, then their is Fox News, kind of like the former Soviet Unions
    PRAVDA, a major propaganda organ for the forces on the American Right and
    the former neo-con forces that got us into the Iraq war. Fox has polarized America
    media and the natural result is boredom. Polarization makes the media predicable.
    You know exactly what words the talking heads will say and what their positions
    will be. That’s when you turn on your favorite “Reality” show, celebrity “Dancing”
    exhibitions, or amateur “Talent” display. Thank you BBC for your continued
    earnest programming…It’s a breath of fresh air….

  28. 38 Bruce - Texas
    October 19, 2009 at 15:48

    We are most certainly becoming obsessed with soft news, and I consider sensationalism on the major news networks to be just as much soft news as celebrity news. Brittany Spears and other celebrities are not “news” unless they have political influence or there is a tragedy involved.

  29. 39 bin ali jabir
    October 19, 2009 at 15:49

    middle east peace is the main issue

  30. 40 Jessica in NYC
    October 19, 2009 at 15:53

    We rarely trust hard news, because it is filled with political bias and if someone wants a complete story we have to read multiple outlets and sources. Unless you’re a interested in politics and make time to analyze and filter the news for political agendas, who has the time to do this? Soft news is easy, because the subject is the focus and is not filtered by a political agenda–for the most part.

  31. 41 lee green
    October 19, 2009 at 15:58

    Well agree with most the above, perhaps more descriptive news of Parkistan / Iran /Afganistan would make it more interesting “day in the life of an Iranian family” or Pakistan family etc.. Also seeing armed soldiers walk around desert sites in Afganistan is so common place you could be watching 2/3 year old films. Not saying the death toll is not a disaster or not brave troops, but the story is politically formulated therefore people get bored, if the real gory truth was seen and made clear then maybe something might get done to resolve the situation.

    As for the news re the popularity of the boy (or not) in the ballon, well its sad that entertains bored people but it is human interest, perhaps fly the ballon over Iraq? could suggest who to put in it but then…. maybe that’s going too far!

  32. October 19, 2009 at 16:00

    People tend to prefer soft news because it relates most to them. The story of the the Australian baby in the stroller who escaped death by a train can have more relevance to parents than the ongoing wars in distant parts of the world. From this story, they can learn to be more attentive with their children. It has a global human meaning.

    Actually hard news interests only those closely related to it.

    Maybe people seek an easy life. They don’t want to tarnish it with news about blood in the comfort of their living rooms. Soft news helps one to relate it to one’s own life. Hard news concerning conflicts is the business of politicians who may or may not have the will and the power to change their courses.

  33. 43 Dave in Florida
    October 19, 2009 at 16:25

    Nigel is correct in stating that we have become so overloaded with information that we can no longer even process most of what we see or hear.

    It’s important to remember that newspapers and news channels are for-profit businesses. Newspapers sell advertising space and fill the empty space that remains with news stories. They will cut the content of stories in order to make it fit the allotted space around the ads – they will not cut the advertisements. Television news does the same thing in that shows are planned around commercials, not visa-versa. The reality is that news editors are in the business of advertising.

    As for WHYS, yes, stories can be a bit soft some days. However, listeners are almost always given the opportunity to choose the day’s topic on the blog, and that is what goes on the air. Why blame the show when it’s the listeners who have picked the topic and chosen “fluff?”

  34. 44 Nigel
    October 19, 2009 at 16:27

    Great subject, good contributions. One side of my brain wants to read news without having to search for explantions and trying to vector in on the real issues by reading and seeing many different views from all over the world. The other side is serious about hard news. If we take the hard issues like Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq for example my heart cries for the people on the ground…..all of them…..combatants and civilians alike. However my mind treats the US and European government’s responses to these critical tradgedies as soft issues, worthy of a good laugh and an incredulous sense of wonder at how shallow they seem to think we are.

  35. 45 Maria Mann
    October 19, 2009 at 16:27

    In the 40 years that I have been a journalist nothing has changed, nor will it ever. It is, however, good to ask ourselves these questions.

    We feel helpless to change the world — how many people can hold an intelligent conversation about Pakistan, Iraq, Russia or Sudan? To do that requires a genuine passion for what is going on, what has gone on and what will follow.

    To speak of balloon boy or pram mom or whatever other light topic — and I have to say BBC has spent an inordinate amount of time on our little balloon boy, nonstop, permanent loop on the day of the event — gives the common denominator in all of us a little air, fresh or stale, as the case may be.

  36. 46 Andrew in Australia
    October 19, 2009 at 16:29

    Ok who is to decide what is soft and real news?

    Point is, must we focus on what really is plainly speaking… rubbish. News is news and if we decide to only focus on serious and hard hitting news then we will suffer for it. What we should be thinking is, do we elevate stupidity and publicity seeking to the heights it achieves? That is a more valid thought.

    The Heenes news was clearly a set up and clearly an attention grabber, so why report it to the level it was? Keep perspective on such stories and don’t pander to those who set such stunts up. The same goes for what celebrity is wearing what shoes or who they are sleeping with etc. If you pandr to these types then it becomes something that must be perpetuated or encourages other to try for their few minutes of fame.

    Report the news but keep small and insignificant news in the background, not base entire reports around it or devote as much resources and attention to it. But most of, the consumer NEEDS to understand it is them and their desire to improve their empty lives by focussing on such trivia that drives it.

  37. 47 gary
    October 19, 2009 at 16:31

    I don’t think it is escapist or inappropriate to focus on “soft news.” It is just a way of overcoming our deficiencies in metal “resolution.” With large calamities, we have difficulty focusing upon the fact they consist of many miraculous escapes or individual disasters. Most people understand more easily when the hard news items are properly presented using a journalistic “fractal” approach. The small helps us understand the large. However, the part must be representative of the whole, else propaganda results.
    g

  38. 48 Steve/oregon
    October 19, 2009 at 16:32

    I do get weary of the news that we should all hear regarding the middle east and economy. But when ballon boy eats up my whole damn lunch I get irratateded. these “soft news” stories should be mentioned in passing with the occasional update between reporters and real news stories.

  39. 49 steve
    October 19, 2009 at 16:46

    The willingness of the media to pay attention to people seeking attention, will just create more attention seekers like the people who want to be on Reality TV and the balloon family… Recall, this stuff is peanuts compared to some attention seeking that has gone on recently. Remember those cases of missing children, where it turns out the parents kill the kid, then went to the media to say the child was kidnapped? They went that far to get their 15 minutes of fame… 24 hour media and the internet is enabling people with personality disorders, making them crave more and more attention.

  40. October 19, 2009 at 16:51

    Of course people can become obsessed with ‘soft’ news, just as they can become obsessed with hard news, chocolate or just about anything else. The key is to recognize when your obsession is interfering with your life. That’s when it comes time to scale back or eliminate the source of the obsession altogether.

  41. 51 ARTHUR NJUGUNA
    October 19, 2009 at 16:57

    Sometimes one gets bored by loads of news that happens when one is confined to the sidelines. Why these conflicts exists, none of the parties can give a genuine answer as to the real genesis. There are times that I ignore most of the news. Iraq, Israel, Afhganistan and Pakistan – these are all cases of ‘tampered experiments’ or if you like ‘old hats on my scalp’. Thank God not to hear about Georgia and Sri Lanka anymore.
    Soft news too are not a must when they are awash with all the frivolities of attention seekers. At times I turn to book writers or other activities in order to re-establish my boy’s bouyancy.

  42. 52 John in Salem
    October 19, 2009 at 17:05

    It’s the “man marries goat” stories that get me out of bed in the morning. After 5 minutes of suicide bombings, train wrecks, nuclear saber-rattling, etc., I just want to crawl back under the covers and hide.
    And then I hear about a guy marrying his goat or someone setting a new record for swimming in Jell-O, and it reassures me that the world is still as silly as ever.
    People need comic relief – it’s the only thing that makes the rest of the news bearable.

  43. 53 Mohan, USA
    October 19, 2009 at 17:08

    As a resident of Colorado, the hot air balloon story was more than just soft news; our airport was shut down, and many government agencies were involved in what was seriously thought to be a dangerous situation for a young boy. But, this had only on a local, and at worst, regional impact. I can only wonder, though, as to why this made the national news here, what to speak of overseas.

    At one time, this emphasis on soft stories was merely an American phenomenon, the result of a media driven society that served the lowest common denominator.

    But, in my observation, even the inimitable BBC World Service has fallen prey to this mess. My feeling is that as the American model of Capitalism spreads across the known world by hook or by crook, this phenomenon will only continue to grow.

  44. 54 Anthony
    October 19, 2009 at 17:11

    Funny (well, not so funny) story:

    I remember I was at a bar with a bunch of buddies, and a buddy and I started talking about Gaza. This group of people got upset that we were talking about “depressing things like that” and wanted us to talk about the newest music instead.

    This has actually happened a few times, just with different subjects. Instead of Gaza it was Iran or Pakistan, and instead of music is was movies or T.V.

    America is just way to occupied with fun and “cool” things.

    -Anthony, LA, CA

  45. 55 Livia Varju
    October 19, 2009 at 17:19

    I for one spend a lot of time thinking, writing and discussing the burning issues of the day, ie. the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Taliban and Al Quaeda fanaticism and violence, the dramatic state of the environment and its consequences, the lack of principles and conscience in ever growing numbers of people, etc. etc. One needs some entertainment after all that and a bit of fun, and that’s what the trivial stories provide.
    Livia Varju

  46. October 19, 2009 at 17:21

    I know about this hard news fatigue first hand. As the author of the defining book on a horrible subject (*SCHOOL SHOOTINGS – What Every Parent and Educator Needs to Know to Protect Our Children* – Citadel Press, Sept., 2008) I learned that people don’t care much about such heavy incidents once they’re no longer in the news unless it has affected them personally. Even school counselors and admin seldom show up at my book signings and speeches – rather, it is students themselves who are most interested, which may be a good thing in the long run.

  47. 57 Luz Ma from Mexico
    October 19, 2009 at 17:21

    I think a “soft news” like the balloon boy, can turn into a “hard news”. Now that we know that it was an hoax and that, probably, the parents were involved, it raises a lot of issues relating to bad parenting, the insane need for fame and the twisted ways people use children from their selfish gain.

    Sadly, as another contributor stated, the “hard news” that nowadays reign the news media, are highly political, so they are more about the “politics” in the conflict, that what the conflict is doing to the people living in it. I am sure that if the media focused in the human part of the conflict/event/situation, those news would be in the “most commented, viewed, e-mailed” list.

  48. 58 Ibrahim in UK
    October 19, 2009 at 17:23

    Why do all news stations have more or less the same stories, with the same level of importance on each story. Did the audience choose the balloon story to be the headlines, or was the balloon story forced onto us by every media outlet splashing it as a headline?

    The difference between the balloon boy and the Middle East, is that the ballon boy was reported as a story about a human being. The Middle East conflict is reported as anonymous statistics (and stripped of historical context). Very rarely is there an insight into the human beings affected by the conflict.
    We relate to human beings better than numbers. Most media stations know this and manipulate the reporting to promote their agenda (but that’s another matter).

  49. 59 jens
    October 19, 2009 at 17:32

    i remeber when Diane died, britain fell into this collective week of sadness and misery. i could hardly bare it. yes her death was sad and tragic, but then so are millions of other deaths.

    the one thing i do not get about the lady and the stroller held up as a moment of being thought safety, is the fact that it should be natural to hold on to a stroller with your kid in, ESPECIALLY considering a train is coming into the station.

  50. October 19, 2009 at 17:34

    From the perspective of an American, I think that since News companies here have become very profit driven, and simply respond to what their audience wants – in other words, they deliver a product – I think that because of this, people are not given consistently newsworthy news. News media is there to please customers say, ‘more of the easy to swallow stuff please” and the companies reply, “coming right up!”

    Also, I have noticed in my travels that European news does a bit better job. For example, I have noticed that with war coverage in the UK, it can get a bit grisly – ie. showing the reality that war is in fact grisly because it consists of people killing one another. In the U.S., the general news audience seems to prefer being titillated to being reported to in a cold fashion.

  51. October 19, 2009 at 17:41

    I turned off the TV when “balloon boy” re-runs replaced the evening NEWS. The news station itself seemed bewitched by the footage. Ugh!
    But now I have seriously considered whether I have ever sat glued to the screen as a real-time event unfolded, and I have. I think it is the “real-time” itself that is gripping. I wonder if witnessing an event as it unfolds is not refreshing since most of the news is filtered through reports by others. That the topic of a real-time event is relatively inane seems unimportant at the moment (its inanity is made embarrassingly clear in the re-runs), but the fact that the important stories will still be there when the few minutes of “reality” are over somehow makes the “escape” into real-time less an indictment of our insensitivity to the world’s life-changing issues. Real time “news” is a brief diversion. Again, it is the ad nauseum re-runs that stand as indictment of our priorities, not necessarily the following of a real-time event. Re-runs turn witnessing into voyeurism… disgusting.
    The cost of on-site news reporting makes real-time events a cash cow. Lots of viewers/listeners are locked in for the duration for not much outlay of funds.

  52. 62 Daniel Sisa
    October 19, 2009 at 17:42

    The interest we have on soft news has also a lot to do, from my point of view, with the way strangers interact with eachother.
    Sports, weather, tv and of course its “hot stories of the day” help us out in the hard task of bearing our office pals for instance, creating the false impression that we really care about everybody and we keep a friendly open communication channel. Discussing serious issues give to much information about who we really are and I don’t think we feel comfortable showing that so easly.

  53. 63 Mike in Seattle
    October 19, 2009 at 17:46

    I apologize in advance, but I’m going to have to blame the news agencies on this one, though commercial outlets are much more guilty of this than non-profit outlets are.

    As a journalist or the head of a newsroom, your responsibility is to report on important news. It’s not my choice to turn a cable news channel’s resources to bear on an a shiny floating hoax, and it’s not it’s not my choice to ignore the loads of investigative stories that are constantly being ignored. The purpose of the fourth estate is to keep everyone informed about the important goings on in the world so that we can act as responsible citizens. Never forget this!

    If anyone with management responsibilities at a news agency, and you chose to spend more than a passing moment on fluff stories like this – well, I hope you spend some time alone thinking about what sorts of responsibility the profession entails and if spending so much time on this story and stories like it are in line with that responsibility.

  54. 64 Linda from Italy
    October 19, 2009 at 17:51

    As lots of people have already said, balance is what’s needed.
    The problem with much of our hard news is that no matter how much analysis is presented by intelligent, informed journalists, it so often all comes down to politicos repeating their stupid entrenched positions ad nauseam, refusing to listen to the opposite point of view and droning on about centuries of history and wrongs committed by other people in other times – the Arab vs Israeli running battle is the classic example of this – and it just produces an attitude of “a plague on all both your houses” in me. Having said that, when I listen to Daniel Barenboim and the amazing work he has done and is doing to generate at least an iota of human understanding in that sorry place is just riveting – just goes to show how the arts can overcome obstacles that political dogma cannot – my plea for more arts and less repetitive news.
    Re stories like the balloon boy: that was quite fascinating for the light it sheds on today’s Western society and the desperate quest for fame.

  55. 65 Citizen Dan
    October 19, 2009 at 17:53

    There is no denying the potential human drama inherant in the balloon boy story , at least until his discovery . Of course it deserved a headline’s worth of notice on the half-hour from your typical news outlet . But any feature story / coverage could certainly wait for a weekly update . There is never any reason to spend additional real-time coverage on a story like this for any but stations local to this one boy’s nearest communities , who may be acquainted with the participants personally . There are no pressing broad issues of import in this story . Where are all the so-called news editors ? With their noses deep into the bottom line .

  56. 66 Shannon in Ohio
    October 19, 2009 at 18:12

    During O.J. Simpson’s murder trial, survey after survey reported that their respondants strongly denied they were following the story, but TV ratings said otherwise. The sad fact is that humans are hard wired to be attracted to sensationalist news–even if they do feel guilty about it.

  57. 67 Half-Not
    October 19, 2009 at 18:18

    The balloon boy was NOT soft news (as it happened initially). It was simply news! It was a rare event, that had it been true, would certainly have been newsworthy. Or as newsworthy as anyone being lost in an aircraft ever is. Since when is that soft news? If a pilot goes down in an aircraft is that soft news?

  58. 68 Bob - PA, USA
    October 19, 2009 at 18:18

    Yes, we are terribly addicted to “fluff” news instead of news which actually should be of interest. I hadn’t heard of the Balloon Boy story until I heard the boy was found in his parent’s garage – on BBC World Service.

    This is not a new affair. Some time ago, my wife and I were returning to America after a short holiday in the Caribbean. In the Miami airport lounge, I looked up at the television, one of the 24-hour news channels. The anchors were shrilly ranting about the autopsy results of Anna Nicole Smith for half an hour. On the scrolling-text “ticker” at the bottom of the screen, I saw that Mr Blair had finally brokered a bilateral government in Northern Ireland.

    Another half-hour went by, and not a peep out of the expensively-coiffured anchors about Ireland – just another thirty minutes of meaningless conjecture about the death of a drug-addled nude model.

    Imagine! An power-sharing agreement that might possibly lead to permanent peace in Northern Ireland! After a century of Trouble! And what do the news editors think we NEED to inform ourselves of? A pointless, excruciating prolongation of celebrity death coverage.

    I was and remain sickened. I haven’t listened to a peep of network TV or radio news coverage since, except for BBC World Service. At least on BBC I can actually find out something about what’s going on in the world.

  59. 69 Jessica in NYC
    October 19, 2009 at 18:18

    @the challenge from your speaker

    Sorry, I did not follow the story about the “balloon boy”. It seemed like a stunt from the beginning. I know the details now because you’re talking about it now, but won’t bother to read about it further.

  60. 70 Tom D Ford
    October 19, 2009 at 18:18

    I’m proud to say that I saw through that balloon boy story the minute I heard it.

  61. 71 Ron
    October 19, 2009 at 18:20

    Speaking of soft news, why don’t we just call it idiot news. One of the reasons I used to like WHYS was that it used to debate issues that really mattered. However, it no longer helps matters when even networks like the BBC start to broadcast less than intelligent stories and on WHYS Ross gives the excuse that “the reason we are debating this story is because it has had the most hits around the world”.
    So here’s the question: If a story about a monkey directing traffic had the most hits around the world, would it warrant debate?????

    And has it ever occurred to you that the reasons some of these unintelligent stories receive the most hits is because the major news networks (the BBC inclusive keep) broadcasting them.

    Thank God for the Al Jazeera English service, it seems to be the only network that still broadcasts NEWS.

  62. 72 archibald
    October 19, 2009 at 18:27

    This seems to be soft news about soft news. We all know it exists and yet people still obsess over it. Occasionally, the lighter human interest story gives respite to the bludgeoning sensationalist news stories we all are tired of being dragged through, day after day. That said, If people would do more to stop war, poverty, and general deterioration they might get less of it on the telly, rather than ignoring it and remaining obsessed with soft news, sound bites and other people thinking for them.

  63. 73 Sarah
    October 19, 2009 at 18:28

    It’s not that we’re attracted to sensationalist stories – more that soft news tends to be about subjects that we can all relate to – they are very accessible. You don’t need knowledge of politics or international affairs to understand how important a story is – everyone will have their own perspective on softer subjects.

  64. 74 Aaron from Denver
    October 19, 2009 at 18:28

    I live in Denver which is South of where this balloon boy incident happened. I think it’s a big waste of everybody’s time to give these kind of people what they want(attention), the parents of this boy are notorious for being disrespectful in everything they do! Not only did they waste valuable resources when there is really an emergency, but they just feed off this attention so they can do it again in the future! I feel sorry for the kids because they are taught that this is okay to do, and I hope that charges are filed for this petty attempt for attention. I almost feel sorry to be American to think this trash is more important than world news or dare I say it, someone’s attempt at trying to get noticed for something so stupid

  65. 75 Roberto
    October 19, 2009 at 18:31

    RE “” So, are we becoming obsessed with soft news?””
    ————————————-

    —– Historically, the curse of mankind is part of the fabled 7 deadly sins, “Lust”, “Gluttony”, “Greed”, “Sloth”, “Wrath”, “Envy”, and “Pride”.

    Soft news contains various elements of all those attributes which is why the media loves the Hurricane stories, the baby down a well, boy in a balloon, MJackson stories of the macabre and excess, what star got dumped by another star, and so on.

    Hard news is too complicated and potentially distressful for the average citizen unless it’s of a blockbuster disaster movie quaility.

  66. 76 Paulo
    October 19, 2009 at 18:33

    My name is Paulo, I am typing from Rondonópolis-Brazil and I think that nowadays we have many options in terms of news. So, one chooses what he or she feels better with. I avoid hard news such as wars, violence and etc, although it is important to be aware of this. As we have many options like BBC, I stick to soft ones, like right now, I am listenting to WORLD HAVE YOUR SAY, which is fantastic.

  67. 77 Tom D Ford
    October 19, 2009 at 18:35

    “Hardwired”.

    That’s a crock of baloney. I didn’t pay attention to OJ Simpson, Balloon Boy, or that phoney Clinton impeachment show trial by Conservative Republicans. I’m just not hardwired to lose myself in circuses like that.

    It’s just “pan et circenses”, “bread and circuses”, keeping the people distracted from the real problems they face.

    Like those phoney Fox News “Tea Parties” and “Town Hall Shout Downs”, set up and promoted to keep The American People from paying attention to the real problems that need to be reformed.

  68. October 19, 2009 at 18:39

    While Iran and Pakistan news is a tragedy that is likely to affect evey one , Ballon boy seeks to satisfy gossipping nature of man.
    News that is not promoted is not read.

    Promoting a news is in the hands of the Publisher,Editor, in that order.
    If these gentlemen decide what has to be promoted , it stays promoted and well read.
    People per se are not specific news oriented excepting in general terms like Sports, politics etc.What the content is in this area is in the hands of the media.

    I am reminded of a book by Geoffery Archer or is it Sydney Sheldon, where a media Tycoon creates news, by recruiting terrorists and getting ‘exclisives’
    News is what media is.

  69. October 19, 2009 at 18:45

    I work as a futurist, meaning I help companies and governments understand and plan for long-term change, in society, economics, politics, technology, etc. As a result, I have had to develop a more sensitive filter regarding what news is “important” in the short term—ie, having a short-term impact on the public consciousness—what will carry on to cluster with other issues to be important in the mid-term, and what is a small, weak indicator of something that has a long fuse, such as the Iran bombings this weekend.

    For most people, however, it’s a zero-sum game—choosing something entertaining, something they may even have a connection to, versus something that they may not feel they can affect, but which may change their lives in the long term. The vast majority of people won’t or can’t (currently) make the connection to the long term, so they deal with information—I won’t call it news—that they feel is relevant to their own experience.

    There is probably also an issue of information overload, where we have to choose the information we want to internalize, just like food. We can either consume what will help us long term, or stick to what makes us feel better now. Where the work needs to happen is connecting these two elements.

  70. October 19, 2009 at 18:47

    you know, in my opinion, a man can only take enough of bad discouraging news, i mean think about the things we always consider serious news? wars, suicide bombers, fatalities and just anything and everything depressing, at some point you just feel like ugh, this is just too much, especially when you always try your best to figure out how some one can be happy seeing things like these taking place, i mean like the suicide bombers in pakistan, you just keep wondering, what really drives them? the people that finance massacres and wars, what do they gain in seeing innocent blood being shed??… when you feel you’ve had enough of the bad news, you always look for something soft, like a balloon scoring a goal, you didn’t talk about that by the way Madeleine
    peace to y’all

  71. 81 Alex
    October 19, 2009 at 18:47

    I would actually like to have MORE choice of news here in the United States. It would be great if more cable providers carried the BBC, the CBC, and al-Jazeera. CNN, Fox, and the like are so terrible that where else can we go but the soft news stories/sites?

  72. October 19, 2009 at 18:48

    In New Zealand we have the New Zealand Herald.. and http://editingtheherald.blogspot.com which lambasts the paper for soft news, and ‘personalised’ emotive narratives for serious news. Personally I prefer reading http://editingtheherald.blogspot.com/

  73. 83 Colin Sundaram
    October 19, 2009 at 18:49

    19. 10. 09

    Haven’t been like this since the genesis? I think so. Are we serious about others suffering? We are interested in talking about Michel Obama’s wardrobe, Sara Palin’s lack of culinary skills or something similar to that and so many such nonsenses. While dining at the most expensive restaurants paying 1000 dollars a meal people shed crocodile tears about poverty in Africa or India or Bangladesh and so on. Think of the press covering stories about the two sons of Prince Charles and late Princess Wales – about their girl friends, their girl friends’ likes and dislikes et al. The balloon saga is something similar to what has been there in media all the time. Indeed the story of the toddler who defied death under a running train is a much better read than many stories about the so-called celebrities’ divorce etc.

  74. 84 Carole in OR
    October 19, 2009 at 18:50

    When I pick up my paper in the morning, if a balloon-boy-type article is on the front page I say to myself “thank God there is nothing more important to report”. I don’t follow the soft issues, however being aware of their existance tells me a great deal about the state of our collective mentality. While the horror of Littleton Colorado left me feeling like the person staring at an accident as I passed. I also had to ask myself, could that happen in my son’s school. Does that make local soft news or hard?

  75. 85 Patrick from NYC
    October 19, 2009 at 18:50

    I’ve heard it referred to as fast food news. It is entertainment news and has no educational value in current affairs. I was not interested in the balloon boy story nor was anyone I spoke to. It was only the news companies in a desperate frenzy for ratings that pushed the story on us. I found it sickening, and it lowers the bar on the general population. It is sad that these fast food news companies are taking over. Just look at how News Corp has been taking over creditable news media in the past few years. Where is the FCC? BBC should do a story on this.

  76. 86 Phyllis , Naples Florida
    October 19, 2009 at 18:51

    The bottom line:

    SOFT NEWS, formerly called ‘LIFIES’ is real news to us if it happens in our backyard.

  77. 87 Liz in San Jose
    October 19, 2009 at 18:52

    For me personally, I think it is imperitive to understand the big issues we have in the world today – the challenge is there’s SO MUCH to absorb. Having said that, sometimes the news just weighs me down.

    It is very easy to want to escape life’s realities and find some good news – but the media could be doing more to show a better level of good news (baby under the train in Melbourne excluded). There are many people doing good in the world, who have marvelous stories to tell – and we could all benefit from hearing their stories, rather than whether some vacuous celebrity shaves their head, or gets a new boyfriend.

  78. 88 steve
    October 19, 2009 at 18:54

    I wonder if anyone remembers this, but Mother Theresa died right after Princess Diana, and was completely eclipsed by Diana, despite Diana really doing nothing except marrying a Prince. Mother Theresa beneffited manking, and look how much attention her death got vs. Princess Diana’s death got…

  79. 90 Tom D Ford
    October 19, 2009 at 18:55

    I think it is funny that Comedy Central has a fake news show, “The Daily Show”, and Rupert Merdeox has his own fake news show on his network.

    But The Daily Show is about making people laugh at political antics, while the Rupert Merdeox show is about fear-mongering and trying to get people angry, which is funny from the outside looking in but it must be strange for their viewers to be angry and afraid all the time.

  80. 91 Rob
    October 19, 2009 at 18:57

    In the US the news outlets have also had a habit of scare journalism. “are your kids safe at school, more at 11pm”. In many ways they have turned us off from hard news in an attempt to grab ratings. So the news outlets trying to make soft news hard/scary has played a key role in this.

  81. 92 Dictatore Generale Max Maximilian Maximus I
    October 19, 2009 at 18:59

    Everything the Professor said is the epitome of ‘soft news’!

    In response to Ms. Madeleine’s query:

    “What happens if we have too much of ‘soft news’?

    A: We become soft in the head!

  82. 93 Diego
    October 19, 2009 at 18:59

    The problem comes when most of what we hear is about death and destruction in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Iran. It numbs us to the greater issues within the region.

  83. 94 Patrick from NYC
    October 19, 2009 at 19:04

    The real issue here is not so much the increase in soft news but decrease of hard news. I wouldn’t mind the soft news so much if there were still multiple of sources of real news but the sad reality is soft news is replacing the real news and we are left with few alternative.

    News companies have a responsibility to the public, to keep them up to date on the stories that are sometimes hard to hear. Recently news companies shy away from these stories in fear of bad ratings.

  84. 95 Corrie Jagger
    October 19, 2009 at 19:05

    It seems that the media feels compelled to compete with the growing reality television phenomenon that allows us to virtually live with these selected personalities and follow every detail of their contrived lives in sordid detail.
    We follow them through breakfast, lunch and dinner, watch them sleep and watch them sort through complicated and typically imaginary relationships with the other menbers of their cast, for lack of a better descriptive word.

    And…similar to fans at a motorcycle race, we wonder when the wreck is coming.
    Over time, I think that what this has built to is that we expect a fascinating, intrusive personal experience, even in death. We feel entitled to the details.

    I fear we loose our empathy through this constant exposure to “real” human tragedies and experience in the name of entertainment and viewership/listenership rankings. Likewise, we loose our sense of tragedy through the flooding of airwaves with stories about “balloon boys,” “child brides” and so forth. What happens when this is no longer news-y, ie tragic enough?

    Regards,

    Corrie Jagger

  85. 96 Jericho Morton
    October 19, 2009 at 19:08

    Soft or Hard, which do you like best? The BBC enjoys force-feeding either. Then, as they slide a dialectic of fantasy deep inside, we quack as though it matters, we are told it matters and the hard of thinking believe it matters. Bernays would be teetering on tittering

  86. 97 Sean Broderick
    October 19, 2009 at 19:10

    First, you (and the BBC) run a wonderful “real” news program, which apropos to today’s program is very refreshing given most world news — and specifically US journalism — is obsessed with banality and triviality.

    Second, the topic of today’s show — soft news — reminds me what Clive James once commented upon (and I paraphrase here): “the problem with Fame in the modern age is that wrong people are becoming famous.”

    James rather acerbic point, I think, is in today’s 24/7 news cycles we elevate tabloid-like stories — and there protagonists — to the front of the stage when ultimately such stories have little to do with the plight of the human condition.

    Kind Regards,
    SR Broderick
    San Francisco, CA

  87. October 19, 2009 at 19:23

    In todays boring world people want sensational news and the media wanting to sell itself, provides it. Both are to blame. More often than not it is the ignorant masses who not only create the norms but also pay for it. Luckily the rest still have a choice today. Who knows about tomorrow? Thanks to majority rule, the lowest common denominator may completely take over. The brainless masses are more dangerous than we give them credit for.

  88. 99 M. Carter
    October 19, 2009 at 19:35

    Why is it that the “modern”world is so obsessed with either or? Why not both?
    I like the news to be the news and I particularly like true investigative reporting, but I have no problem with the news being 25% soft, or up-lifting as a contrast to depressing news.
    I did not follow boy/ balloon hoax. I had a Déjà vu feeling I had already heard a similar story on the BBC news some years ago and I am very intuitive. Somehow a family with a hot air balloon in the back yard…just ready to go…?

  89. October 19, 2009 at 22:04

    We like soft “news” because it sells. That is the reason our newspapers are dying but our tabloids are going off the shelves. Also, news has become nothing but commentary. (Of course this is ironic, as it is coming from a news commentary site). Where are the news channels like the BBCs, Reuters, CSPANs, AFPs and the APs? They are languishing behind punditry channels like FOX and MSNBC….

  90. 101 Thomas Murray
    October 19, 2009 at 22:42

    Caring for the welfare of another individual in peril makes us feel connected with the wider world. I remember watching that balloon race across the cable news channels with a knot in the pit of my gut hoping the boy would make it. (None of the broadcast nets carried it; not even FOX).

    It’s the human interest aspect of it — that, and perhaps a little schadenfreude. In LA they air the car chase of the week, which even reaches the hinterlands (the Midwest) if it’s a slow news day. Funny. They got at least five choppers in the air, all running into each other, and the idiot in the getaway car invariably heads for the most traffic conjested area of the city.

    That the balloon story is starting to look like a joke just makes it sad.

    –Louisville, Kentucky, US.

  91. 102 PeterD
    October 19, 2009 at 23:39

    I think you at BBC are obsessed by trivial news stories. But every now and then you people do sit back and take a broader perspective on world events, and that analysis can be interesting.

  92. 103 Josh, Indianapolis
    October 20, 2009 at 01:51

    I’m not buying all this stuff about “We’re so tired of hearing about the horrible events in Afghanistan and Iraq.” I would wager that most of the people making this argument have *never* followed any sort of “hard news” for any significant period of time. It’s a specious way of saying “I’m too lazy to pay attention.”

    And people who’d rather pay attention to garbage like “Balloon Boy” are the reason why our governments get away with what they do.

  93. 104 VJ NAMBIAR
    October 20, 2009 at 05:29

    Actually , soft news or hard news, it doesnt matter . What we need is “real news” from unbiased reporting , without any hidden corporate agendas and focussing on real issues relating to world peace , quality of life and the betterment of humanity .With every news made as “sensational ” as possible , today true journalism is dead. The media is run by corporations and corporations’ have transformed the media into a vehicle for profit maximisation . The media has intruded into every sphere of peoples’ lives and is bombarding and hypnotising them with propaganda every minute and second of the day .
    Public ignorance is bliss for politicians and corporations .They join hands to make money at the cost of the gullible public . The media which was originaly meant to keep them in check , today adds fuel to this raging fire that is consuming our planet . From highly publicized unnecessary products to hyped frivolous political issues & most un-worthy politicians , propaganda by the modern media is the most viral and dangerous flu today that spares only a “ thinking “ few.
    Where once upon a time media had been a catalyst to development and awareness, today it has given birth to a mad race ; a race that leads to nowhere; a race to self destruction . People run because others are running. People buy because others are buying ! Thanks to the media . Consumers are less consumers and more buyers. Promotion and consumer manipulation have become the agenda of the media, to share the booty with the large corporations .
    Just like the crash of the titans on the Wall Street , I hope we will see the crash of the “media titans” that will bring about a revolution in media reporting worldover. .

  94. 106 Elina
    October 20, 2009 at 07:14

    I find it very hard to believe that people in general would be “obsessed” with “soft” news. It’s also a question of what news agencies, papers, TV channels etc. offer to us as “news”, what they decide is worth covering. I, for one, am not in the least interested in “news” such as the balloon boy — I can understand it has some value for the locals, but to repeat the story again and again throughout the weekend on international news channels…? I can only speak for myself, but I still value news coverage which goes beyond the headline news and is able to bring profound, detailed analysis on the complexity of e.g. international conflicts and their effects on our lives. I understand though, that it demands from the reporters and journalists a lot more journalistic skills and professionalism than putting up reports on these so called “soft news”.

  95. 107 scmehta
    October 20, 2009 at 07:50

    No, the general public is not obsessed with the soft or sensational news; rather, it’s the media (TV-Channels, Newspapers and On-line) which is obsessed with a thinking that they can keep the public glued to them, so that they can keep adding to their revenues through advertisements and other other audio-visual tom-foolery.

  96. 108 Vicki in NJ
    October 20, 2009 at 18:58

    Hard news? What hard news? Ever since the corporations took over all of the independent media outlets, we don’t get news anymore; what we get is spin. Fox gives us one version of what someone else thinks, MSNBC gives us another, but on one gives us the actual FACTS.

    We’ve mostly become a bunch of drooling sycophants who go nuts over the latest reality drivel, and who would be lucky to be able to point out our own locations on a map. We suck this nonsense up like it was mother’s milk, and then we wonder why we’re deluged with garbage on the “news” programs.

    The corporate masters have certainly done a fine job of turning us all into nonthinking corporate cogs. If you want real facts, we’re going to have to demand that the news services provide them, with little to no spin. Fat chance. We’ve become automatons, the corporate news masters have become even more stinking rich, they’re perfectly fine with that, and nothing’s going to change.

    RIP, responsible journalism; we barely knew ye before they killed you off.

  97. 109 Amanda Thomas
    October 21, 2009 at 11:32

    I find it worrying and exasperating that now even your ‘global conversation’ is concerned with these sensational stories rather than serious news!

    I do see your point, however, that this is what massive numbers of people are reading. WHY?

    Suggested ‘WHYS’: There is ‘too much’ bad news…….people want to be happy…

    Worryingly, it seems that we are missing the potential for ‘good news’ by not informing ourselves adequately to have our say in a meaningful, democratic context.

    Surely we need to help democracy. All people need to be heard. Let’s hope we are worth listening to!

    (Does it worry anybody else that we seem to be going backwards…from putting a man on the moon and an older generation with beautiful handwriting and impeccable manners…to mass production of inferior quality goods -who said Lada?-and intimidating street corners?)


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