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How News is Covered

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  • How News is Covered

    Reporters do not choose which stories you watch, read or hear.
    Once upon a time (when reporters could spell and knew of history) they would sniff stories out and "sell" them to the day editor (in newspapers, USA) or chief of staff (Australia).

    Now, a myriad of pubic relations organisations and press secretaries to politicians do all the work for them. They email notices like this: Media conference. New $2 Billion Construction Blitz For Melbourne. Hilton Hotel, 2nd floor ballroom, 11 am, December 12, 2019. These notices are filed in the chief of staff's diary for the relevant day.

    Reporters do not have time to do a lot of leg work and research stories. They now expect public relations people to have done that for them, and everyone is grateful for it. (Yeah, I know).

    The saying is : if you want the headlines, watch the tv news. If you want the details, read a newspaper.

    In Canberra, the TV news bureaus have a producer who decides what stories are covered and assigns the very few reporters to them. The producer liaises with the network news producer and of course the chief network political reporter.

    Individual city requests for this or that to be covered are frowned upon. No resources to accommodate them.

    In the capital city tv newsrooms, the chief of staff begins work around 6 am. He/she pulls out the diary, plus the overnight pooled camera coverage of fires and mayhem, and decides which stories will be covered and by whom.

    Logistics rule the day. An ever-shrinking pool of journalists and camera crews at his/her disposal, to fill a 60 minutes bulletin which includes the openers, closers, throw to commercial breaks, teasers, commercials, sports, weather.

    Each story is edited down to about 1 minute and 20 seconds. A senior producer will OK it. 80 seconds of story, if transcribed and read out loud, will equate to 240 non-stop words, or about 12 crisp paragraphs. Not much detail can be delivered in that time.

    Politicians and business leaders are thus given media training and taught to speak in "grabs" -- short punchy phrases impossible to ignore by the journalists.

    (If, as a politician you can't face a camera and strut your stuff -- you are doomed. No matter how good for the country you may have eventually become. )

    Around midday there is a phone hook up of all the news producers in each city, where the day's offerings are shared.

    So: the chief of staff effectively decides what happenings in your city you will watch that night. The lineup producer will decide what interstate and overseas offerings you will watch, and the order in which they all stories go to air. There is input from the news editor and the news director.

    In newspapers, luxuries like investigative units where a team of reporters was given weeks to do a story, are no longer. The reporting pool has shrunk to skeletal levels. Ink no longer flows in their veins because they will probably never see a printing press -- they are located many kilometres away from their newsroom.

    The chief of staff, like his TV counterpart, assigns stories. The roundsmen - police, political, industrial, courts etc,
    will liaise with the COS and together decide which stories are available and to be covered.

    There are ongoing conferences with the editor in chief (who decides what to "splash" with -- the main page one story) and a host of other editors such as features editor, fashion etc etc, although they have their own domain of non-news pages to look after.

    Each page comes laid out with the advertisements outlined. Layout sub-editors fill in the space around the ads with stories. The head of a big suburban newspaper chain once infamously told an inquiry that "reporters are there to fill the space in between the ads). Ads pay the reporters' wages.

    The more important, eye-catching stories are on odd-numbered pages: 1, 3, 5 etc ---because they stare the reader in the eye as the reader opens the newspaper right to left.

    Newspapers are dying fast. In 10 years they might disappear -- the Fairfax press was given even less before bankruptcy hit, then it joined with Channel 9.

    In Melbourne, the afternoon/evening Herald used to be the chief source of today's news, and its huge sales (around 400,000 peak) dependent on commuters buying it to read on the train going home. When public transport declined, so did the Herald sales and it merged with the morning Sun to become the Herald-Sun.

    Perhaps more in another post later.....

  • #2
    Cant argue with what you say Robusto, you seem to have a good grasp of the subject, one point from your post worth noting and commenting on.

    "Newspapers are dying fast. In 10 years they might disappear -- the Fairfax press was given even less before bankruptcy hit, then it joined with Channel 9."

    I suspect free to air TV wont be far behind, particularly commercial channels, ad's predominate now, very little worth watching, anything worth a look is disjointed by constant extended ad breaks.


    • #3
      You know i really thought you were going to post a picture of a birdcage floor, i was surprised Robusto!
      Because half the shite that is published belongs there!


      • #4
        I renewed my Washington Post subscription...special half price for first year $30 USD. Great reporting. Paid reporting by real reporters.

        I would like to subscribe to the AFR but $626 per year although they do have a half price special for 3 months.

        You definitely pay for good reporting but at the price of the AFR, it isn't going to happen.


        • #5
          Yep, The Washington Post is on my daily reading list, certainly a more professional publication than our Aussie offerings, having said that they certainly don't have much love for Trump.

          The Post is owned by Jeff Bezos (Amazon) no love lost between him and Trump.

          Also used to get the Australian, however a 12 month digital subscription is now $480.