Weathering the news

Increasingly, there seem to be two different "news worlds" for lack of a better term. There's online news, and "regular" news.

Right there I'm realizing that I'm running out of terms, and resorting to improvising on-the-spot euphemisms of my own.

What, in the name of God, is "regular" news? The stuff that manages to find its way past whatever editorial board runs the New York Times, the news that makes it onto major network television, or the news that makes it into the hard copy of my daily, the Philadelphia Inquirer?

I don't know what regular news is.

For that matter, I don't know what "real" news is. If it doesn't get widely reported, is it news? If it gets reported, but barely, then is its relative importance to be determined by that?

I'll illustrate with a few recent examples.

While I would have thought a major change in government in the country to the immediate north of the United States would have been considered of the utmost importance, the news of the Canadian election results was buried in the interior pages of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Yet today's Inquirer deems Palestinian Authority exit polls (not even tangible election results) worthy of today's front page. Why?

The huge story of Google censorship is buried in the last paragraph of another article with a different headline on page eight -- this despite the fact that a congressman from New Jersey (that's the area of the Inquirer's distribution) is holding hearings on the matter. The Google story is of course huge news on the Internet and everywhere in the blogosphere.

But perhaps I'm overreacting. Perhaps what's big news on the Internet is not news in Philadelphia.

Then there's another story I've touched on before which is huge news on talk radio, and which would be newsworthy if it happened in any other country, and that is the regular cross border incursions (I won't yet call this an invasion) of Mexican troops into the United States.

Just yesterday, another incursion was reported:

Chief Deputy Mike Doyal of the Hudspeth County Sheriff's Department said that Mexican army personnel had several mounted machine guns on the ground more than 200 yards inside the U.S. border, the Daily Bulletin newspaper reported earlier.

"It's been so bred into everyone not to start an international incident with Mexico that it's been going on for years," Doyal said. "When you're up against mounted machine guns, what can you do? Who wants to pull the trigger first? Certainly not us."

Hudspeth County Sheriff Arvin West, whose officers were involved in a similar incident last year, said he is certain that Mexican authorities know who was involved.

Whether it should be called an invasion or not, I think this is major news, and the fact that it isn't being reported makes me wonder whether there isn't a serious attempt to relegate any serious discussion of it to paranoid conspiracy status. (Something often triggered precisely because of non-reporting!)

This all begs the question of what is news.

Don't ask me. It's freezing cold outside, and I was earlier told it was a "nice day." Relative to Russia, I suppose it is.

Weather is a relative thing -- something that I, a weather absolutist who believes weather is either good or evil, must admit.

If the truth were told, news would probably be as relative as the weather.

(I said "if" the truth were told....)

posted by Eric on 01.26.06 at 07:06 AM


Good piece. Classic Eric. We just linked it, above a piece on the NYT.

bird dog   ·  January 26, 2006 2:29 PM

It is being reported, but in an awfully funny way.

Men in Mexican military-style uniforms crossed the Rio Grande into the United States on a marijuana-smuggling foray, leading to an armed confrontation with Texas law officers, authorities said Tuesday. No shots were fired.

We're so eager not to cause a problem with Mexico, that we won't even say "Mexican military." We say, "Men in Mexican military-style uniforms."

This, even though the Department of Homeland Security says that they WERE Mexican military.

Bonnie   ·  January 26, 2006 3:32 PM

Well, they are either Mexican military or they are not. If, as the Mexican government maintains, they are not, then they are simply very dangerous armed criminals -- who should be met with force.

Eric Scheie   ·  January 26, 2006 3:43 PM

Thanks for the link, Bird Dog!

Eric Scheie   ·  January 26, 2006 3:44 PM

Ooops.. that Department of Homeland Security link should really be linking here.

Bonnie   ·  January 28, 2006 10:38 AM

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