In today’s news, more trivial shit

This is the current main image on (2.45pm): Sarkozy's shoes

Shoes are An Important Story, dontchaknow.

Yes, an official meeting between Nicolas Sarkozy and Francois Hollande –
Sarkozy’s Cuban heels let him see Hollande eye to eye – and the journo writes about his shoes. And gets it wrong – those are not Cuban heels. And then the online editor at decides it’s important enough to be the main image.

You can’t make this shit up.

And over at, this is the story the online editor believes is the most important of the afternoon: and the leak

It’s not even a popular tv show.

A tv show that often isn’t in the top 10 most watched of the week is considered more important than the news that the Electoral Commission has cleared Craig Thomson of electoral fraud. That’s right, the result of a show that most people don’t watch is more important than one of the biggest stories of the year. Or perhaps it’s that a positive result for Thomson ruins News Ltd’s anti-Government agenda. (Psst journalists, starting all your news stories with “Tony Abbott says” is not holding the Government to account. It’s letting the Opposition control your news agenda, and the result is you’re not holding anyone in power to account. Also, consider that Baym wrote this in 2005:

“Mainstream journalism’s reliance on predictable conventions can render it susceptible to manipulation by the professional speech writers and media handlers who seed public information with pre-scripted soundbites and spin,” (2005, p. 265).

Politicians know that you’ll lead your story with the dumb quip, and if someone asks any questions of substance, no one will report the answer. They also know that no journalists will fact check their claims, particularly those about the economy. Journalists, you are being used. But I digress.) is also running a BIG story about a finance reporter adjusting her skirt for a split second – stop the fucking presses, right? – and two free plugs for upcoming films.

I’m not suggesting that online news should be worthy and serious all the time. But it’s pretty hard to argue that it’s worthy and serious even some of the time.

One of the things I’m looking at in my doctorate is how young people experience the news. The research indicates that they reject mainstream news because it’s trivial and sensational (eg, McNair, 2000; Buckingham 2000; Raeymakers 2003; Mindich, 2005; Costera Meijer 2007… you get the picture. I won’t post all the refs below – I’ll put them in the comments if anyone wants them). It used to be the case that young people developed an interest in news when they “grew up”, but this is no longer so certain.

I’ve mentioned this before but it’s worth mentioning again: In the 2004 US presidential election, 21 per cent of 18-34-year-olds got their news from The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and Saturday Night Live – just behind the 23 per cent who got their political information from network news (Feldman, 2007). But, those who watched the comedy shows knew more about election issues than those who got their news from the MSM (National Annenberg Election Survey). If I was still a journalist, I’d be pretty fucking nervous about that.

Baym, G (2005), ‘The Daily Show: Discursive Integration and the Reinvention of Political Journalism’, Political Communication, vol. 22, no. 3, pp. 259-276.

Costera Meijer, I (2007), ‘The paradox of popularity: How young people experience the news’, Journalism Studies, vol. 8, no. 1, pp. 96-116.

Feldman, L (2007), ‘The news about comedy: Young audiences, The Daily Show, and evolving notions of journalism’, Journalism, vol. 8, pp. 406-427.

19 responses to “In today’s news, more trivial shit

  1. Thanks for this. I was also wondering why the Thomson findings were so deeply buried. In amongst the belly-aching that we should have an election NOW -No, RIGHT NOW!- I think it’s forgotten how impressive a group the AEC is. It’s nice we have such an independent organisation in charge of our elections. Hope you’re enjoying Bossypants, I loved it!

    • Yes, I am enjoying it. I still think Emily Maguire’s Princesses and Pornstars is the best feminist book I’ve read in years.

      Lydia, welcome to the News with Nipples.

  2. As a Gen Y (23), I totally agree with your last point. I get most of my news from blogs (e.g. The Daily What) and then supplement it with The Age (erg) for politics (yet to find a good Australian political blog). However my sister is 19 and gets all of her news from online sources and is more informed on world news then anyone I know (and I work in an office full of know it all middle aged white guys). Also it is uncanny that as soon as I get irate about a particular ‘news’ story on The Age you blog about it!

  3. So, how IS that doctorate going?

    • It’s going quite well. Although every time you ask I feel like I’m being scolded! After a diversion last year somewhat off topic into the training of journalists, I’m back to where I want to be, looking at news quality and online news.

      I was on Radio National’s Media Report on Friday, talking about Lara Bingle and my doctorate. It went well. Although I said “absolutely” too often.

  4. That is an amazing stat at the end about the comedy viewers being more informed! I just read The Republican Brain which talks about the ‘smart idiot’ effect, where watching Fox News makes viewers less informed about the facts, not more. I’d like to think Australians are smarter than to go down that road, but as you say the current state of mainstream journalism doesn’t inspire confidence…

  5. Well, you know, I don’t blame them either. Sometimes I get my news from SNL, too…

    But seriously, it’s especially hard to take something like a woman shifting her skirt seriously in the wake of Ashley Judd’s puffy face moment…

  6. This news is ridiculous, but I have to say that I suspect you are looking in the wrong place if you want searing comment and high powered investigative journalism. You should try here: ……Most of your problems now solved!!

  7. seanwilliams275

    Surely not just young people, re the news? I stopped reading papers and watching TV current affairs over a decade ago and I’m in my mid-40s. Thanks to blogs like this one, I haven’t looked back.

    • Thanks seanwilliams275. I was reading a study a few days ago by Irene Costera Meijer (‘The Paradox of Popularity: How young people experience the news’, 2007), about the way young Dutch people experience the news. Most felt that if the news was important, it would find them. Also, they regularly checked news sites to read the headlines to stay on top of things. Which, of course, leads in to some other studies I’ve been reading about how headlines are often not accurate descriptions of the story below, but that’s another post!

  8. It infuriates me that my wife insists on referring to Ch9’s Today Show as “news”. The 3 minutes of headlines they have on the half hour are very clearly based on what they’ve read in the Hun/CourierFail/Smellograph and sometimes Fairfax or even ripped off the ABC. And the repetition. And the repetition. And the repetition. Aaaarrgghhhh it got me too!

    I wish we had a print edition of a non-Murdoch paper in Queensland, perhaps that would help the standards. Given the quality that I see from their online content, however, I don’t hold out hope.

    btw, I’m a longtime fan of The Colbert Report, not so much Jon Stewart and I get most of my news via twitter rather than MSM. FTA-based MSM is out of date by the time the broadcast happens; online MSM allows comments on articles from people who are unable to grasp the basic facts of the issues an article deals with – and they (commenters+moderators both) know it and DO NOT CARE
    because what matters is pageviews and ad clickthrough rates.


    • The repetition on the radio gets to me… Does my head in.

      But you’re right about how page views is all that matters. Even if the first 20 comments are “how the fuck is this news?”, the eds don’t care.

      J Random, welcome to the News with Nipples.

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