It’s not longer the five W’s – who, what, when, where and why – but the three C’s – celebrity, currency and conflict – that they teach in journalism school, according to a writer of a letter to The Washington Post Saturday.
The writer comes to the right conclusion regarding the Foreign Service officer who resigned due to his objections to the Afghan war. But the student’s reason is that the story doesn’t have currency.
What is disturbing is the lesson he’s learning in journalism school — that to be a story, there must be celebrity, currency and conflict.
That’s precisely what’s wrong with journalism. Celebrity only counts if you’re working for People magazine or MTV. Currency is probably fair; after all we’re not writing history in the morning paper, except maybe the first draft.
But the focus on conflict is what is taking journalism down. Newspapers are dying for several reason. But journalists can’t blame it all on the internet. Unfortunately, they are taking their cues from the internet, especially rabid partisan bloggers and cable shoutfests. By doing so, they are leaving readers without the information they need to make informed decisions. False conflict, i.e., death panels and whether we go all one way or the other in Afghanistan, is crowding out information readers want. That is one of the reasons they’re losing readers; they’re not any different from what people can get online.
Fortunately, that’s not always the case, but if they’re teaching the three C’s in J-schools, it will only get worse.