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Sean Daly, Michelle Stark and Sharon Kennedy Wynne

When is Paris Hilton News? And a Multimedia Journalism Seminar in Tampa

2

March

I've rarely seen a news organization do a story on why it didn't cover something.Paris_hilton

But the Associated Press appears to be patting itself on the back -- albiet in a restrained, self-deprecating journalism kind of way -- for trying an experiment of sorts: refraining from covering Paris Hilton for a week.

The unbylined AP story I saw, said this: "It turned out that people noticed plenty -- but not in the way that might have been expected. None of the thousands of media outlets that depend on AP called in asking for a Paris Hilton story. No one felt a newsworthy event had been ignored. (To be fair, nothing too out-of-the-ordinary happened in the Hilton universe.)

The reaction was to the idea of the ban, not the effects of it. There was some internal hand-wringing. Some felt we were tinkering dangerously with the news. Whom, they asked, would we ban next? Others loved the idea. "I vote we do the same for North Korea," one AP writer said facetiously."

Paris_hiltonburgerbikini Put me in that camp. Because the idea of banning Paris Hilton from news coverage seems a little bassackwards to me.

The traditional notion of news coverage is pretty simple. As an outlet, you develop an internal code about what you report, why, and how. It's a template that is constantly evolving and moving, depending on events in the world, the intiative of reporters and even changing technology. But the process is simple: Develop standards of news and apply them to events in the world.

So what does it mean when the largest news collective in the world decides that, no matter what a particular celebrity does in her life, they won't report it for a week? Or more importantly, what does it mean when they stop their reporting and nobody really notices?

It tells me they weren't really reporting much in the first place.Parisdui

This all comes back to something I've written about many times in this space. I'm tired of the hypocrisy from old school journalists who proclaim dysfunctional professional celebrities like Anna Nicole Smith aren't news, until they do something they know their readers care about.

So, again, it seems the problem isn't that Paris Hilton isn't news. It's that we, too often, report on things that they do which really aren't news.

Exhibit A: the AP's first story after the Hilton blackout -- news that she was ticketed for driving with a suspended license. Under AP's oddball moratorium, this tidbit wasn't news on Thursday, but was news worth reporting today.

Call me crazy, but I think the AP's week would have been better spent figuring out how to turn more substantive stories on celebrities readers clearly want to know more about. because ignoring news is a business I just don't see a lot of future in...

Tbabjlogo2006 -- The Tampa Bay Association of Black Journalists is presenting a seminar on multimedia journalism at 10:45 a.m. Saturday (tomorrow) at the Tampa Tribune building, 200 S. Parker St., Tampa. Don't let the name of our group fool you; this seminar is FREE and open to the public, journalists and non-journalists alike, REGARDLESS OF RACE. (See our MySpace page here; Web site here)

We will have a distinguished panel, including myself, Media General Multimedia Editor Ken Knight and Sarasota Herald-Tribune features reporter/blogger Steve Echeverria leading a discussion on how to bring multimedia elements to journalism, what makes a cool blog and more. Stop by for the doughnuts, stay for the conversation!

Tbtlogo -- The folks at tbt* are celebrating a record 356,000 copies distributed in one week for the free, youth-oriented tabloid. That means the newspaper has a pick-up rate of 85 to 90 percent -- with a significant footprint in Hillsborough County and Tampa -- making it the fastest growing newspaper in the country.Newspaperhawkerimage_2

At a time of declining circulation figures and sinking ad revenues, it is  heartening to hear that a newspaper experiment to reach new readers is actually working. But I can't help wondering what it means for newspapers when our biggest recent success is a stripped-down news report which doesn't even ask readers for a nominal, .35-cent fee.

[Last modified: Wednesday, July 21, 2010 2:38pm]

    

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