What’s Really News?

What’s Really News?


Leonard Zwelling

I have a habit I cannot seem to break. Every night I DVR the NBC Nightly News (usually with Lester Holt) and play it back later. I have become ever more concerned that the NBC news team is no longer capable of discerning what is really news.

Here’s Google on what is news.

“newly received or noteworthy information, especially about recent or important events”

The fact that the roads are icy in Dallas is not news unless you live in Dallas or the ice is coming your way. Why not let the local news handle this? It is of absolutely no consequence to the vast majority of the viewers of the NBC Nightly News. NBC is not reporting news. It is reporting misery.

Then there are recurrent mass shootings and police violence. Are these really news? Is it noteworthy? Not anymore. It happens every day and it is quite clear that no legislative body is going to do anything about the fact that there are more guns than people in the United States and there are some really bad cops on many police forces, but they are the minority. I am not sure what we are supposed to do with the constant overload of stories about weather, mass shootings, and police violence. Why is it news? If it were news, wouldn’t Congress do something about it? Ha! If Congress did something, now that would be news.

Most nights now, the NBC News ignores the war in Ukraine that has direct adverse effects on most Americans in that it affects international trade, oil and grain prices, and European stability. It is also draining a great many resources from the United States Treasury. The news ignores anything about the inner workings of China, its economy, or its hegemony in the region until the balloon invaded our air space. There is nothing about Iran or Europe (unless they have bad weather or a mass shooting).

In short, most of the events, including funerals of those slain by the police, are not really noteworthy and are not really important events. All they do is rile people up.

I think the newsrooms around the country, particularly television newsrooms, need to re-examine their policies about what is really news and what nonsense is of mere prurient interest. Leave the weather and the tornados and the hurricanes to the local news. The stations in Houston do a fabulous job on weather. News of a hurricane off Africa is like porn to the news directors in Houston. They can’t get enough.

Tell me about mass shootings when you’re ready to stop them. They all have one thing in common. Guns. Nothing short of getting semi-automatic weapons and ghost guns and gun shows gone will make a difference. Yes, these are disturbed people doing the shooting and they need mental health assistance, but how will we identify them before they start to fire? One thing we can surely do is make sure they don’t get a gun because to own a gun you need to pass a written test, a shooting test, and a psychological profile.

As for the out of control police, we need to examine the cause of each event thoroughly and separately. It’s not just simply bad cops. It’s human beings under tremendous stress from career criminals. The police are trying to keep us safe. I am very worried about the notion of defunding the police. They are between us and chaos. We have a justice system that unfortunately is always playing catch up on the commitment of crimes—even those committed by the police. That a few examples of outrageous violence happen to lead the news every night, is no reason to condemn all police officers as many want to do.

The news should be in service of an informed public. Ice storms, mass shootings, and police violence need not be the lead story every night. But on NBC Nightly News, they seem to be.

Lester Holt needs to get a grip and think about what’s really news. He could start by watching the PBS News Hour. Now that’s news.

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