WHEN STEPHEN Bates published If No News, Send Rumors: Anecdotes of American Journalism almost 30 years ago, the title was intended to be an indictment of the news media. Sadly, in the intervening years it seems to have become more of an operating instruction.
Having just spent several hours listening to the radio while on a road trip, I’m reminded that so much of what passes for “news” these days really isn’t. Instead of hard-baked journalism, we have a soufflé of supposition and conjecture with a few facts sprinkled in to give it a teensy bit of flavor.
That’s partially a consequence of the way the news world has changed since Bates’ book came out. Instant communication means that we get to see and hear things while they are still unfolding. The result: content without context.
Then there’s the almost inevitable pull of broadcast to choose entertainment over education—what looks and sounds good over what really matters.
Add 24/7 cable channels’ insatiable appetites and we’re left not with people telling us what has happened, but what they think might, could, or should happen. Instead of the five W’s and an H—who, what, why, where, when, and how—we have perhaps, possibly, and maybe.
With all that in mind, I offer a short glossary for the discerning news consumer.
Banalysis: Lame, partisan potshots.
Calumnist: Commentator chosen for their fiery put-downs of others.
Infirmation: The sketchy details on which a commentator’s opinions are based.
Inslight: Criticism offered by supposed insider expert.
Ranchor (ran-kor): A program host with thinly veiled hostility.
Ruemor: Regretful hearsay.
Speckulation: Elaborate “what-if” scenarios extrapolated from the smallest evidence.
Torqueing heads: Panelists selected not so much for their insight as their ability to twist other people’s words.
Now, granted, there’s a place for perspective, room for reflection, and an opportunity for opinion. But we need to be careful to remember that this is views, not news.
Photo credit: John Englart (Takver) via Foter.com/CC BY-SA