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July 27, 2005

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Slow News Day

I just posted a looooong item on morph advancing the argument that the Internet has not (just) sped the news cycle up, it’s slowed it down considerably. I’d love to hear your thoughts, if any strike you. (Except for your comments on my use of the profoundly dubious phrase “hot breaking scoop.”)

Posted July 27, 2005 at 10:23 | Comments (2) | Permasnark
File under: Briefly Noted, Journalism


I really liked the post. It made me feel all hopeful about the potential for "news" to be more about understanding politics and culture through contextualization, rather than a vomit of meaningless, ahistorical soundbites.

Also, Hot Breaking Scoop was my nickname in high school.


Posted by: Laura Portwood-Stacer on July 27, 2005 at 10:52 PM

You’re onto something important here, Matt. You’re clearly right about there being fundamental changes in the chronology of news, and your contrarian take on speedy/slower seems right, too. I think you could get even deeper by not limiting yourself to the dimension of time.

One of the great sins of daily journalism has long been incrementalism: nudging a story forward an inch at a time based solely on what’s “new” today. That technique – so ubiquitous in most daily journalism – has multiple faults: it denies context, tends to give all elements of a story relatively the same weight (a “new” detail may outrank a much more significant older aspect) and, most egregiously, simply wears out and bores readers.

So I would expand your insight about “slowing down” the traditional cycle to incorporate the notion of broadening it, as well. As you suggest and Gene Roberts famously used to say, not all news breaks: some of it trickles and seeps and oozes. In just such ways do the stories you cite – Trent Lott, Valerie Plame – become broader and more inclusive as they gain perspective (another word for distance).

I remember John McPhee told me in an interview of the first story he ever sold to The New Yorker, after dozens of rejections. At first the editor said, “No thanks, we just did a story on basketball.” McPhee checked, and it had been (as I recall) something like eight years before. And so they relented and bought their first McPhee story – a profile of a Rhodes Scholar in the NBA, Bill Bradley. That sense of time and perspective sure paid off for McPhee.


P.S. One more advantage of blogs: I always wanted to meet somebody known as “Hot Breaking Scoop.”

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