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Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Sunday, May 19

Gapers Block

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Andrew / April 11, 2006 1:42 AM

(Question courtesy of C-Note.)

As editor of a site that straddles that line, I'd say it's a little of both.

Certainly news is important -- we need to stay informed about our world. But there's entertainment value to any form of information, including news; it's just that the level of entertainment varies based on one's taste and interests. Sports news might be entertainment to me, but for some it matters very much... bookies, for instance.

Andrew / April 11, 2006 1:43 AM

(How many times can I say entertainment in one paragraph?)

Leroy / April 11, 2006 6:57 AM

When I see a news story I like, I feel happy.

When I see a news story I don't like, I feel sad.

I like to feel happy, so I only watch news that I like.

Stephen / April 11, 2006 7:25 AM

I guess it depends on what type of person you are, your politics, etc... and then depending on that answer there is probably a "news" source out there for you. Predictably, my regular news sources are NPR, the Daily Show, and the NBC 5 morning news. I choose NPR because it's informative AND entertaining. Daily Show because I wanna be entertained. And NBC 5 news just to stay on top of what big things happened overnight.

I suspect that's why most people choose their news... they're under the impression that they can (or should?) be informed and entertained at the same time. How others regard the quality of that "news," or that news' ability to entertain, is a different story.

printdude / April 11, 2006 8:19 AM

Network News? Infotainment
Newspaper - Information.
Cable news can vary between the two, but I would say that it leans toward infotainment.

I would define infotainment as just enough information to keep your attention, but not enough information to educate you properly. Sports fits in this category very nicely.

JS / April 11, 2006 9:27 AM

I think news matters. We wouldn't be good citizens if we didn't pay attention to what our government was doing. That being said - news today, particularly television news, is designed to be entertaining. The austere & attractive news anchors; the sober-sounding intro music; the professional, clean desk they all sit behind, etc... It's very orderly & soothing, isn't it? Media outlets are trying to reach the largest audience possible, so they cannot choose to give too much information to people or report too in-depth, because most would lose interest and flip the channel. Everything is done in quick segments, giving just a summary of what happens, enough to engage the viewer, but no more. I wish I could say that I'm just sitting here coming up with this - but really, I'm a huge fan of Neal Postman. This question is so conducive to a Neal Postman discussion, I have to ask - C-Note - are you currently reading Amusing Ourselves to Death?

Thad / April 11, 2006 9:33 AM

Re: "I like to feel happy, so I only watch news that I like."

That's a recipe for ignorance if I ever saw one.

PrairieMod / April 11, 2006 9:45 AM

Great question. I find myself wasting much useful time following specific news that I'm interested in. Google Alerts keep me up all hours. Then I blog about the stuff. I truly believe that at times I am in fact amusing myself to death!

Co-contributor to PrairieMod

Atul / April 11, 2006 9:56 AM

My thoughts on the topic are largely influenced by Postman as well. I honestly think that most "news" isn't very relevant to me, aside from the weather and anything directly related to my job; aside from that, news is most useful as a common base to connect with other people in conversation, and as food for thought--but very little of it is useful to me in the practical sense of the word.

Steve / April 11, 2006 9:57 AM

What Thad said. Unfortunately, that's become the reality now -- people tend to tune into the news that tells them what they want to hear, with a paucity of objective fact. It was scary enough a decade back when some people started to refer to programs like the entertainment-oriented Extra! as news, but now the likes of Rush, O'Reilly and Air America are cited by viewers/listeners as "the news."

NPR's cool, though. Dunno how telling stories from the perspective of actual people came to be a "librul" thing, but if that's liberal, then I'm extra-damn-proud to let my freak flag fly.

bam / April 11, 2006 11:19 AM

News matters, but only if you move beyond passively taking it in, to doing something based upon it. Thus, it's mainly entertainment for me ;-) That said, I like to buy the rumor, sell the news. Or maybe short the rumor and buy the news, depends on the rumor.

megan / April 11, 2006 11:47 AM

Is this a good place to suggest a new Fuel question? Not that I think this one is bad...
Maybe in the future there could be somehting like "favorite (most economical?) grocery store" or best places in town for fresh produce? Or baked goods? It seems that food posts are hot topics, and I always like to know about any places I might be missing!

Mikhail / April 11, 2006 11:48 AM

Maybe I am missing the point here. Are you seriously asking does news matter? Does information about the world matter? Of course it matters! I put this question in the "duh" file.

What today's FUEL question should be is "what do you think of our re-design?"

quick answer:

The yellow on the front page makes me feel like I am looking at a urinal.

BUT...I do like this "Live comment preview." Overall the functionality improvements are cool but the visual design changes are pooh.

Or, maybe I just hate change.

Andrew / April 11, 2006 12:47 PM

You can make comments (pro or con) and report any bugs here, at the end of the Detour article explaining the redesign.

Emerson Dameron / April 11, 2006 1:11 PM

1. I'd say knowing your way around world events and being able to place them in rough historical context does indeed belong in the "duh" file, right there with understanding traffic signals. 2. News can and should be entertaining. Honesty alone can be entertaining. 3. Journalistic objectivity does not and cannot exist - taking the longview of something doesn't mean concealing your own position. 4. That said, there's that increasingly dominant strain of gossip-as-news, at once prudish and voyueristic, wildly condescending and thoughtlessly hypocritical, that I find sinister and deadening. It's the reason I get pissed off when anyone I respect kowtows to Drudge. 5.On a tangent, would someone explain what Wonkette is good for besides shallow, depressing sarcasm?

mike / April 11, 2006 1:44 PM

C-Note's wedged a couple convenient abstractions into this question, in addition to the dismissive "just." It reads like bait, so I won't bite. Yet.

Naz / April 11, 2006 2:08 PM

There's no way that I consider news to be entertainment. I am not entertained by news -- they are facts (well, that's sort of untrue in current times).

Entertainment news might be considered entertainment.

I do think news matters -- being informed is important.

I think the real question here is: "Is the PLACE/SOURCE you're getting your news from, important?"

Sarah / April 11, 2006 2:55 PM

I think that news is better when it is entertaining. I used to love reading the Guardian ( when I lived in London because it was informative and sassy. Granted their front page news is probably fairly humorless, but there's a good bit of satire/humor in the mix, even in the national/internationalal "hard news" sections.

Y A J / April 11, 2006 4:16 PM

I think real news matters but so little of what we see is real news. I fall into this trap all the time - yes, Wonkette is crap but I can blow a lot of time there and why, oh why do I now know the name of Gwyneth's new kid?!?
Most major media outlets cover infotainment and I have to search the internet for real news or wait for my Nation or read overseas papers.

Leo / April 11, 2006 4:29 PM

Objectively I think it's impossible to say whether news "matters." We define for ourselves what matters and what doesn't, based on what we want to/feel the need to get out of life. For me, most news matters only in the sense that I feel connected to something larger than myself if I know what's going on in the world, and, more honestly, in the sense that being informed makes me feel smart. But in terms of decisions I will actually make about myself and my loved ones, news that isn't extremely local matters little.

unmake / April 11, 2006 5:01 PM

The events the newsmedia purports to cover matter, but if my behavior isn't changed by knowing of them, I'm not sure it matters whether I know them. If something lives long enough to make it to a weekly or monthly publication, I'll take it a lot more seriously than whatever the blogosphere is currently waxing on.

Dunl / April 11, 2006 5:40 PM


amy / April 11, 2006 9:26 PM

I'm checking this site from a business trip to St Louis, and tonight in the bar an hour-long segment about Natalie Holloway (the teenager who disappeared in Aruba) came on. It was unanimously agreed that a lot of the time, news fixates on a "sensational" story and everybody just gets overloaded on it-- I for one could not care less about some of the stories that received coverage this year such as Michael Jackson, Natalie Holloway, or the runaway bride.

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