No news is bad news

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I’m going to let you in on a trade secret: The reason the media were so obsessed with new year’s resolutions this past week is the same reason they were obsessed with the Iowa caucuses. There is nothing else going on. 

“Living Here,” Republican-American, January 7, 2008.
Resolved: Find something new to report on next Jan. 1

It’s true! Every news organization I’ve ever known, from newspapers to radio to television and the web, is faced with three big challenges at this time of year:

  1. Nothing is happening. Congress is on break. The White House is on holiday. The schools, government offices, and most businesses are geared down and not making news. All you’ll get is spot news—fires, accidents, disasters—if you’re lucky. This year we can rely on the pandemic, so I guess we’re not.
  2. There’s no one to cover the news if it does occur. News organizations go on skeleton staff. The senior people take holidays with their families, leaving the fewest and newest to run the operation.
  3. No one is reading or watching or listening, anyway. Everyone is out there shopping or partying or watching reruns of old holiday movies.

The smart news organizations don’t leave this to chance. Before everyone vamooses for the holiday, they are expected to file one or more so-called “evergreen” pieces—something from their beat that can be trotted out as needed during the long news drought. The “year in review” (in my cruder days I knew them as year-enders or rear-enders) is the easiest because you simply organize your clips from the past year. The look-aheads to the next year take a little more research.

It also takes time to research and prepare a year-ender on a particular topic, such as the pandemic or a national, state, or local program.

And for those junior members of the team who are left to cover the news of the day, or lack of it? There’s always the first babies of the new year. Or you could track down the person-on-the-street. Did you get what you wanted? Did you have trouble finding what you were looking for? What are your resolutions? Regrets? Hopes?

The real news cycle starts up again this week, so don’t worry.

Or then again, maybe you should …

Want to read more of the column quoted above? You can, online, at Under Advanced Search, search for “Howard Fielding” in All Text, “Republican-American” in Source, and “January 7, 2008” in Date.

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