Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

15 Av 5759 - July 28 1999 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Opinion & Comment
Media Coverage Does not Imply Importance

Editors and producers have to come up with material that interests the public, and they can only choose from what they have available, that is, what has happened recently. But all these ways of weighing what goes on a front page have nothing to do with the intrinsic importance of the story.

Sometimes the media point this out very clearly. The New York Times in a story on May 5 noted that just a bit before then an amphibious boat filled with 21 tourists began taking on water in Lake Hamilton, Arkansas. Thirty seconds later it disappeared below the surface, killing 13 people. In terms of absolute values, it was an event of no less magnitude than an Amtrak train crash in Chicago that took 11 lives about a month and a half earlier. Yet the train crash got extensive coverage for several days in the national media yet the story of the boat accident, like the boat itself, sank without a trace.

This was part of the reason. Editors contacted by the Times admitted an important factor in their coverage was that the Amtrak wreck produced pictures of the mangled train while the boat accident left nothing to show on the front page. Another point they mentioned was that many more readers take trains than take pleasure boats, and thus would feel the train tragedy more deeply.

The bottom line is that prominence in the media is only vaguely related to the importance of an event -- and most certainly not the kind of eternal significance that we who lead Torah lives are used to. Those who are able to avoid the news media can congratulate themselves once more because of this. Those who must expose themselves to the general media should repeat it to themselves daily.

And even those who read Yated Ne'eman should remember that -- according to the guidelines we received from maranan verabonon -- the same basic considerations (with important limitations and modifications) even apply to our own front page.

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