Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Comfort the comfortable.

An old adage in journalism says that your job should be "to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable." Yet here's one Sun-Sentinel journalist's account of how the paper's new leadership set its repertorial priorities:

"snippets of reader interviews were shown ... informing us that predominantly white, overweight people want more stories about local restaurants, water restrictions, gas prices, anti-depressants, pets, vibrator sales and immigration. (Not the actual immigration issue, mind you, just clues to where they can shop and work to avoid immigrants themselves.) ... They want stuff that appeals to that selfishness, we’re told. ... Readers just don’t have time to get up off their lazy asses and research things themselves. At least not the readers we’re aiming for.

To put it bluntly, our job now is to comfort the comfortable and ignore the afflicted. Unless they’re bothering the comfortable. In that case, we need to tell the comfortable what they can do to avoid the afflicted."

Not unlike my experience in Tallahassee. Thank God muckrakers and industry watchdogs like Bob Norman are still around.

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