But is it news?

. . .or just yellow journalism? There is increasing use of '?'s in newspaper and online news headlines, where often it is used in a manner to induce fright. I thought the presentation of news was a statement. Take MSNBC for instance. The main headline on its home page is usually a question, as it was on the subject of the Near Easterner who just crossed, with bomb materials, into the US from Canada, in the state of Washington.

Ray? (just questioning again)

They seem to be taking after TV news, where we get spots that say “Is your drinking water safe? Find out at 11”

I always hate it when there’s a “news report” of something someone said. Examples would be “Arkansas woman says President Clinton paid her for sex” or “Texas man says he bought drugs from George W. Bush.” Less sensational examples would be “House Republicans say the White House health plan would raise taxes” or “President Clinton said today that the new bill in Congress will cause Social Security to collapse in twenty years.” The news show can claim, with all honesty, that their stories are true; the statements were made. But don’t journalists have a obligation to check to see how much veracity there is to a statement before reporting it?

Obligation?
The first obligation is to the publication the journalist works for. If the journalist doesn’t follow the guidlines of that paper he/she won’t be getting a paycheck from that publication for very long.
The New York Times? The Weekly Star? Pravda?
If you subscribe to “The World Press Review” from the Stanley Organization you’ll get a magazine full of editorials from the major newspapers of the world each month.
It’s interesting to read the different “takes” each culture has on the same story.
Sometimes when you read editorials from say, Tel Aviv and Baghdad you’ll wonder if you’re reading about the same story.
BTW I just picked two cities with differences. There are a bunch of others.

I’m a newspaper reporter, and there has been a definitive shift in recent years in print media attempting to explain “what it all means” much moreso than in the past. Used to be ‘who, what, where, when’ and only brushing upon the subject of ‘why’ at best.

This philosophical change is largely a result of the explosion of competition print media now faces - there are probably 10 times as many news programs on television than there were 20 years ago. Also the Internet, and a great many more news magazines. Market share for newspapers has shrank dramatically.

The result? News organizations running with news much earlier, more prominently and with less substantiation than they ever would have decades ago (“Arkansas woman says Clinton …”), because they feel as though they cannot afford to be beaten to a story. This causes the media to be much more speculative, which is why you’re seeing a great many more headlines with question marks at the end.

Some journalists seem to take glee in explaining to the unwashed masses what a story means. While I agree we have to do some of that, I get very uncomfortable with it. Who the hell KNOWS what it means? Pretending that you do is leading to us as a society jumping the gun and making long-term judgements based on short-term events.