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Water is wet; The sky is blue; Kids drink at prom parties

The story so far: The local paper runs, err, well, I’ll just let Tam say it:

Standing in the checkout line at the grocery store last Saturday, I glanced down at the Knoxville News Sentinel in the rack by the register and was struck dumb. There at the top of the front page, above the fold, in the place usually reserved for things like War Was Declared!, Man Lands On Moon!, or Dewey Defeats Truman!, was something very much along the lines of Drunken Teen Prom Party In Suburbia.

And Tam says: wait, that’s really news?

The editor responds with: Uh uh, it was, like, so totally news and stuff.

And Dr. Helen joins the fun: Nyuh, uh. It’s like totally not news & stuff.

MKS of the paper defends his paper and has a poll asking the question: So, is it really like news and stuff?

Now, I’m no reporter but I gather that the primary business of the news is to sell the news (sell news = profit). Secondary to that is actually reporting the news. Is the story news? Sure. But is it front page Man Bites Dog, wall-to-wall, daily coverage news? No. It’s a blurb, at most. In the gossip section with pictures of cats. But can you blame the KNS? It was the most read story, even beating out UT football which is quite an accomplishment in Knoxville. And why is that? Well, because you’d rather read about that, or semi-hot teachers doing their students, or porn stars giving knob jobs to state troopers, or Paris Hilton’s jail cell as opposed to the state of trade relations with China, the US Attorney scandal, or that orders for durable goods are up 0.6%. They’re selling the news and you’re buying it. And you, frankly, don’t care about things that are particularly important.

Meanwhile, the Knoxville News Sentinel’s coverage of Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam belonging to an anti-gun group? None. I also recall some sort of property scandal covered here by #9 that’s also not news. But, hey, they gotta pay the bills.

13 Responses to “Water is wet; The sky is blue; Kids drink at prom parties”

  1. Sailorcurt Says:

    This is endemic of the cluelessness of Newspaper editors.

    If they are only in it for the money, why bother with news at all? Why not go, as one commenter on the thread to which you linked pointed out, straight to the best selling media on the planet…porn?

    Because the business was created for a purpose and that purpose was to provide a desired service…namely news.

    So, editors see sensationalistic rags outselling them and think “why don’t we do that?” Then they start printing the types of articles that are popular with mavens of those rags…sure, they’ll get lots of hits on those particular stories…but their subscriptions go down. Why? Because people who want gossip and sensationalism are subscribers to US and People and The Enquirer, not the Daily News. The subscribers to the Daily News expect…well…NEWS. When the papers bend to populism and eschew news for political commentary, gossip and sensationalism, they lose their core audience.

    So how do they respond? Deny, equivocate, rationalize and continue.

    And the result is, people who want news go to alternative sources…local papers end up as a local version of the gossip rags. The ultimate result is that there IS not true source of local news any more. We end up getting our news through the modern equivalent of the age old “grapevine”…bloggers.

  2. Drake Says:

    They don’t want to be caught flat footed if another Adam Downen tragedy occurs, I guess.

  3. #9 Says:

    The News Sentinel seems to be allergic to news.

    Have many people noticed that the News Sentinel is now doing their own YouTube type videos? In other words they have become an Internet TV station. One would think this would be a great place to put all the fluff the News Sentinel is obsessed with leaving room in the dead tree version for, what’s the word, oh right, NEWS.

    Yes Virgina, they could put NEWS in the newspaper. I can see it now, HEADLINE, “Paper prints the NEWS”.

    But it won’t happen. Because if you print the news you might upset advertisers. For example, Knoxville has just been anointed the Number One mid-market City to relocated to in the whole country. So do you think that stories like “Horrible Double Murder” or “Stormwater woes cost homeowners” will make advertisers happy?

    All joking aside, this paper has serious problems.

    There are other problems too. The News Sentinel seems to have a hate hate relationship with West Knoxville and in particular the Town of Farragut. This story is not the first slap at Farragut. Last year there was the infamous Farragut birthday girl story. The News Sentinel took a 15 year old girl and used her for fodder for a series of stories.

    It does seem someone at the Sentinel doesn’t like the West Knox-villains. But if the cards were reversed and the Sentinel picked on, oh lets say, the kids that go to Austin East, how would that sell?

    Yesterday Brian Hornback made some serious allegations about the News Sentinel being Discriminatory in Selection of Interns. According to this post at his blog the News Sentinel has decided to exclude Farragut High School from this years Intern program for the newspaper.

    Picking on the kids of rich people is such fun. And you have to fill the paper with something. Since news is excluded the West Knox-villains might as well get used to being in the newspaper.

  4. Blake Says:

    Silence says: “At KnoxNews, it has outdrawn UT sports stories, including football.

    Just curious…as I’m not in Knoxville. Has this story also outdrawn the Christian-Newsom murders at KnoxNews as well?

    Again…an honest question.

  5. #9 Says:

    Michael Silence post the Top 10 items at KnoxNews this month

    1) Details of double slaying emerge (1/13)
    2) Hemp Milk (SHNS story, no longer on site)
    3) Trooper in trouble over sex allegation
    4) Report reveals ’06 nuke spill
    5) Perp cops KFD car, stunned by officers
    6) Insider: Candace Parker is officially beautiful
    7) Trooper in trouble over sex allegation (different link)
    8) No Silence Here blog page
    9) Files in couple’s slayings opened
    10) The 25th Anniversary of the 1982 World’s Fair

    The original story on the prom party is 15th.

    ———————————————————————

    Some news. Some fluff. I don’t know how the Top 10 is selected. Is this what readers clicked on the Internet?

  6. Blake Says:

    #9, that’s my question too. If it’s internet hits, then yes…the double slaying did receive much more attention. Of course, that’s because of mentions by LaShawn Barber, Michelle Malkin and Glenn Reynolds.

    I’m wondering about top billing on the front page of the paper.

  7. Les Jones Says:

    I think it’s a legitimate news story. It isn’t kids drinking at prom parties, or that the parents let their kids drink. It’s that the parents (allegedly) served alcohol to lots of other kids. That’s against the law, and wrong.

  8. ShelbSpeaks Says:

    You know, there really are parents out there who are clueless, though there’s also the ones who will be the first to pour their kids a drink just because “if they’re gonna drink, they’d rather them do it at home in a safe environment.” Both are idiots.

    Curious? Check out Christopher Ruddy

  9. #9 Says:

    I think itís a legitimate news story.

    It is. You are right.

    But I see the complaint as the placement and the treatment of the story.

    This “Downtown is cool” and “West Knox is a bunch of jerks” meme is overplayed on both counts. Having lived in both places Downtown is not as cool as advertised and people in West Knox County are a lot nicer than portrayed by the News Sentinel.

    Public officials can do no wrong is another meme. Unless they are Lumpy Lambert, Scoobie Moore, Lee Tramel, or Tim Hutchison. In those cases they should be tarred and feathered in you believe what you read in the paper.

    It is not a complete waste of a newspaper. The sports section is there along with the funny pages and the TV Section. The question is whether it is worth 50 cents? I cancelled my subscription before the current Editor.

    But I do like several of the writers. There is always hope it can return to its former position and bring some relevance back. But when you are a cheer leader for the local government and push so many agendas there will be criticism. The News Sentinel earns that criticism.

  10. Jack Lail Says:

    To the question of how the Top 10 is selected, it’s for KnoxNews and not from placement in the printed paper.

    It is based on page views to “article level” content, stories and blog entries mainly from our Omniture stats.

    Glenn Reynolds definitely affects our traffic when he links to our content; LaShawn Barber, Michelle Malkin have not to any noticeable degree.

    The link to the Jan. 13 story on Wikipedia is a big driver of readers to that story. The Hemp Milk story was popularized by one of the influential diggers on Digg. It had flowed into the site automatically by a wire service feed.

    “Perp cops KFD car, stunned by officers” got Farked.

    Pretty much all of those in the Top 10 for the month had good linking from other sites — and then, of course, there’s always Google.

    We look at the list as a measure of what’s being read on the Web site.

    I hope that helps.

  11. #9 Says:

    Yesterday Brian Hornback made some serious allegations about the News Sentinel being Discriminatory in Selection of Interns. According to this post at his blog the News Sentinel has decided to exclude Farragut High School from this years Intern program for the newspaper.

    Correction, I made a mistake.

    I read the post by Brian Hornback twice before the post above and still missed this sentence “The E.W. Scripps weekly newspaper publication has an ad in this weeks edition.” It was the Halls Shopper News not the News Sentinel involved in the Intern issue. The News Sentinel was not involved. Thanks to Sandra Clark for pointing out my error.

  12. Big Buck Says:

    I think we would all enjoy more news about Porn Stars blowing Troopers………. Oh and more news about Lesbians who drive 18 wheelers, that would be cool too….. Oh and Midgets, must have Midget stories. Midget Lesbian Porn Stars who blow troopers to get out of speeding tickets. Ahhh, News Nirvana.

  13. ccc@yahoo.com Says:


    Two turn tables and a microphone”

Remember, I do this to entertain me, not you.

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