07 May 2009

What makes news? (Small Town News edition)

People wonder what it takes to get a story in the conventional media.

Virtually every public relations practitioner will be asked -  at least one thousand times over the course of a career - “what makes news?”

The conventional answers are sex, drugs, power, conflict/controversy, novelty, celebrity, bad weather and money.  There a bunch more but those will do for what we are talking about.

On top of that you have to add proximity.  Local news outlets usually don’t cover something that happened outside their area.  A car accident might make the news where it happened but it likely won’t be covered in the same state or province, let alone the same country.

All that is what makes it so bizarre to find that voice of the cabinet minister is pushing a story about some online “newspaper” in Thunder Bay, Ontario that carried an editorial/ news story praising Danny Williams.
Actually “online” is less accurate a term than “obscure”, at least for people who don’t live in Thunder Bay.  In fact, for most of us, Thunder Bay conjures up nothing more  edifying than that old joke about the only types of people who ever came out of Thunder Bay, one of which was a hockey player.

So somehow, the powers that be over at the province’s major radio outlet have determined that people across the province should be aware of the fact that one guy in Thunder Bay who runs a website has positive feelings about Danny Williams.

Whoopeee ding.

Now what are the odds, do you think, that the Saskatchewan equivalent of VOCM will run a story:  “PEI blogger lauds Brad Wall”.

Or maybe CHUM will carry word that “Antigonish e-mail whiz loves Dalton!”

And even to put it in a closer context – one assumes – might we expect British Columbia’s radio news giants to be heralding the online musings of NLPress about Gordon Campbell?

Somehow none of that seems even remotely likely.  Then again, it’s highly unusual for a news outlet to so favour the regime du jour in its programming that it can become known as “voice of the cabinet minister” and no one misses the joke. 

After all, are the guys running major news outlets anywhere else in the country so chummy with the local Power that Is that they take up a sea on the government’s oil and gas company board?  Highly unlikely.

But don’t take the word of a mere humble e-scribbler.  Just check the registry of companies and see who is sitting next to John Ottenheimer, Ken Marshall, Ed Martin and Glen Roebothan on the NALCOR Oil and Gas Co. board.

In pondering the curiosity of all this, we should not forget, of course, that the government’s polling firm will be in the field within the next day or so collecting their quarterly results.

Everyone knows this, including the crowd over at the Great Oracle of the Valley. They know full well that starting next week their call-in shows will be festooned with Tory politicians heralding the glories of their administration led by the Absolutely Splendiferous You Know Who. They’ve already started practicing in the House of Assembly, as labradore has noted. 

Even Hisself – who just launched a tirade about Steve Harper – will turn up at least once.  Last time he did one of the on air types asked Hisself about this poll goosing stuff. The Premier noted that the government pollster had started in the field the previous weekend and that, if he wanted to goose a poll, he’d have started the week before the polling started.

Which of course, he had already done last time.

And which of course he is doing yet again.