Skip to main content

Davis Journal

So what kind of ‘news’ do you want to read about?

Jan 03, 2022 09:25AM ● By Bryan Gray

The opinions stated in this article are solely those of the author and not the Davis Journal

Like many of you, a friend of mine was upset this past month when he learned that schools were either closing for the day or taking extra precautions due to a message on TikTok predicting school shootings.

“Gosh, just because someone posts something on social media doesn’t mean it’s true,” he gasped. “Social media has destroyed this country. Remember when we turned to newspapers to get the real scoop?”

Yes, I do remember.  The irony, however, is that this friend has bought into the claims that the “mainstream media” covers up “conservative truth.” He doesn’t subscribe to a newspaper, nor does he advertise with one.

No wonder the newspaper industry struggles. When it reports the election results, a healthy group of Republicans turn their noses up, claiming that reporting is “fake news,” while younger readers simply think most “hard news” is boring.

Newspapers are treading water. They feel like they should report on significant events like official meetings, taxation, transportation, education, and economic development. But is there a wide market for this type of reporting?

A co-worker once told me he had canceled his subscription to a daily newspaper when he saw a front-page headline announcing the death of Jerry Garcia, an early founder of the Grateful Dead rock band. “That’s not news,” he told me. “Why would I pay to read such garbage?”

Because garbage to him was incense to others.

Would you rather read about a zoning dispute in a city 20 miles from where you live or the man in Wales whose wife lost his Bitcoin code so he cannot cash out his $550 million profit? One story is bland, the other a “sexy” economic story we tell others.

Would a 26-year-old rather read of an executive change in the Driver’s License Bureau or read a gushing story about “Driver’s License” superstar Olivia Rodrigo?

Would most people rather read a detailed analysis of Joe Biden’s “Build Back Better” bill or be intrigued by a story on a rare Superman #1 comic book being sold at auction for $2.6 million? (Gee, why did we toss out all of our baseball cards and comic books?)

Which story has more interest?  An item on a legislative reworking of a bill regulating barbers or a story on one strand of John Lennon’s hair selling for $750,000?  

Which story will have the most “water cooler talk” at work? One on a teacher retiring after 50 years in a school district other than your own, or one on how Willie Nelson, Jim Belushi, Wu-Tang, and Mike Tyson have developed their own brands of marijuana?

To most of us, Kelly Clarkson having to pay $45,000 per month alimony to her ex-husband of seven years is more interesting than a rebel killing in Honduras, or a county zoning meeting, or an 11-year-old girl receiving a reading award.  

News editors have to weigh all of these if they want to eke out a profit and keep the doors open. TikTok understands its audience; some newspaper publishers are still trying to figure it out. If columns like this and others on this page get readers thinking, that’s a good start.