Has anybody seen my proportion wheel?

David Stevens

David Stevens

By David Stevens
Editor

The first time I heard the question, I didn’t know the answer. After I started learning the answer, the answer started changing.

And it’s still changing.

What is news?

My college journalism instructors 35 years ago generally defined news as unusual events that impacted the lives of most of our audience. It wasn’t news if a dog bit a man, they said. Everyone already knew to watch out for that sort of thing. But if a man were running around town biting dogs, the community needed to be warned.

Today, thanks to 24/7 television and Internet reports, social media, “citizen journalism” and other news-consumer options, news includes pretty much anything anybody wants to read or hear about.

One news headline I saw on Saturday reported, “Orlando Bloom caught on camera dancing to ‘Happy’ while partying in Ibiza.” I’m not sure if that’s unusual or not, but I can’t imagine Orlando Bloom doing anything that could possibly impact my life. Especially if he’s in Ibiza. So I don’t think his antics were news.

Ah, but if I clung to old-school definitions for news, I’d be walking around Golden Library today, keeping a close eye on my sleeping bag rolled up on the side of the building, with my AP Stylebook in one hand, my pica pole in my back pocket, preaching that, “news is what somebody somewhere wants to suppress; everything else is advertising,” to wary-eyed professors claiming they didn’t have any spare change before I could even ask.

Instead, I am relatively gainfully employed by a news organization that believes news is what readers say it is … even when readers don’t always agree on what’s news.

The No. 1 complaint I hear about our papers is that we have too much police news. That’s followed closely by … we don’t have enough police news.

What readers like best about our papers are the obituaries. Followed by the comics.

The contrast is what I like best about our readers. Some of them think Orlando Bloom is news, some haven’t heard anything about him since he tied that yellow ribbon ’round the old oak tree.
Come to think of it, our differences are what I like best about being alive on this earth.

And since different is still news after all these years, we should celebrate. If somebody can bring a cake, I’ll cut it with my pica pole.

David Stevens is editor for Clovis News Journal and Portales News-Tribune. Contact him at:
dstevens@pntonline.com