Why News Stories Can Have an Evergreen Value
When a non-newsmaker likes a story, he finds it news and announces it himself. When a non-newsmaker likes a candidate for office, she refers to him as “That Guy,” and when that candidate becomes a reality TV star, she calls him the” Candidate of the Month.” When a non-newsmaker criticizes a movie, he calls it a “rip-off,” when a movie star criticizes a film, she calls it an” Academy Award-winning drama.” (She’s not really a movie star, is she?) But when news is news, it’s different.
A few decades ago, I listened to an interesting discussion on a news radio show about public relations. The host was referring to a very rare case of public relations: A waiter who jumped into a swimming pool to save a woman who had fallen in. He jumped in because he thought the woman would drown if he didn’t go. She did.
The point the host was making was that sometimes an event like this may affect how many people think or feel about a particular topic. What’s so unusual about this example? That he jumped in, that he didn’t try to save her, that he didn’t even have insurance, that he may have gotten in trouble for his actions – these things may affect how many people perceive a situation. In this case, the incident may have made news, as it may have affected how others reacted.
So, how unusual is it that this one incident could have had such a profound impact on the thinking of thousands or millions of listeners? It may be unusual that it could have such a profound effect on the thinking of one society and one nation at a time. And it’s also not unusual that the same thing wouldn’t have happened in several different societies and several different nations at the same time. What’s unusual is that a massive and unexpected impact occurred. This is usually caused by a disaster of some kind. This type of event can trigger a series of reactions that can cause the news to change.
The same thing happened with respect to the Oklahoma City bombing. As news spread, a number of observers made news out of the event. This would have been unusual, as it didn’t happen in any of the previous five previous cases. But it did make news, because the explosion was a very visible event. People who hadn’t been directly impacted by any explosion before being drawn into the explosion and that drew their attention to a series of other events.
The bomber who jumped into the swimming pool in Oklahoma City was, like the waiter who saved the woman who fell in the swimming pool, an individual who had never been in a swimming pool before. He became well known, because he was an exceptional case. But his actions may not have had the same type of influence on the listeners who heard his voice on the news. Similarly, many people who aren’t directly impacted by any particular act may not become obsessed with hearing about what happened. There are many reasons why news stories have a life beyond the immediate readership.