If news organizations published every crime, every celebrity comment and every political gesture, then the word “news” would quickly lose all meaning. “Dog bites man” = not news. “Man bites dog” = news.
If we can learn something from an event, that we can apply to our own lives, this should also qualify as “news” if it’s a sufficiently unusual/interesting story. Sometimes, it’s difficult to figure out why certain items were selected for front-page status. But this is what appeared on Yahoo’s front page today:
… and I wanted to compare the two highlighted items. Though hundreds of thousands of Americans are encumbered by TSA intrusions every single day in America, it is rare that anything threatening is ever revealed as a result. The fact that Yahoo saw fit to include an incident where TSA actually found something (though it turned out, apparently, to not even be an actual threat) as “news” implies that we should do away with the TSA. If it’s so unusual that it deserves front-page news status, clearly it’s a “man bites dog” incident. The expense, humiliation, waste of time and loss of liberty is too high a price to pay for an occasional find like this one.
Or maybe not. Maybe the opposite is true and we are being told about this to show us how important the TSA’s work is. If they caught somebody with a gun, they might just as well have prevented another 9-11 attack.
If so, then we should be able to apply the same reasoning to the other highlighted headline. If an old man shoots an intruder with his Korean War service weapon, then it is very likely that many other people have protected their own lives (and those of their loved ones) with their own weapons. The only thing unusual here is that both the man, and his weapon, were so old.
If the TSA gun catch is to serve as a “teachable moment” for the rest of us (that we should accept TSA intrusions against our liberties), then so should the Korean War vet’s shooting of a home intruder – even if the only thing that made it “newsworthy” is the age of the man and his weapon.
Yes, I know I’m probably being too analytical with this, but I’m trying to found a science. The science of analyzing the behavior of news outlets. I don’t think there’s a word for this science yet. Perhaps Crimes of the Times can come up with a suitable name.