« "Journalism as a Public Forum" | Main | What do maps have to do with journalism? »

October 11, 2005

"Infotainment"

By nature human beings want to be entertained. Entertainment is the reason to attend plays, sporting events, movies, watch television, or listen to the radio. Compared to these other forms of entertainment, news doesn't quite add up in the interesting category. Chapter 8 in The Elements of Journalism discusses how news writing is often boring to the public. Journalists are afraid they may lose their audience if they do not try to add some entertainment. This fear creates what is referred to as "infotainment."

Infotainment is when a journalist strives to turn the information they have into something entertaining. As a reader this is beneficial, because it makes news reading easier. But why does everything in life have to be easy? Children play video games because it is easier than reading a book. Adults watch television news instead of reading it in the newspaper. Professionals often hire employees to do the jobs they do not want to do. People have an obsession with trying to find the easy way out. If infotainment is the easy way out, the public must realize that in a chase for easiness and entertainment, they are losing the essentials of news. Primarily news should give the public factual information to keep the people informed.

In the book there is an excerpt from an interview between Barbara Walters and Monica Lewinsky. Monica Lewinsky became nationally recognized when her affair with President Clinton became public. Since Clinton was President this became a major concern of the public, who viewed this issue in terms of politics and morality. In the Walters interview the focus had nothing to do with the harmful side effects this affair produced, but instead was something comparable to the plot of a soap opera. Walters asked questions about the President's kissing ability, passion, etc. Providing this information about the "bedroom" secrets of the President does not benefit the public. At the most it is cheap entertainment.

There needs to be a distinction between providing information and providing entertainment. There are writings intended for entertainment. As Katie Aikins mentioned in a comment to one of my blogs, magazines such as Cosmo provide information. This information is entertaining, but it should be because I do not think or at least hope that people don't turn to this magazine in an attempt to be informed about what is going on in the world.

Basically a journalist should not insert a song and dance into their news. Instead they need to find a unique angle. If a story is covered from a unique angle or an interesting viewpoint, then the story will not be boring. In EL227, Dr. Jerz requires students to develop an angle before covering any story. By spending a great deal of time on angle, each member will have a story different from that of their peers, which will make it interesting and entertaining without striving to insert entertainment.

Posted by JennaOBrocto at October 11, 2005 10:07 AM

Comments

I have to admit, I am not a big news fan and it is basically because I do find it boring. I just can't get into it. I also often find it depressing. It is more often TV news, but sometimes both. That is why I really enjoyed what we talked about in class on Monday about how important it is to report a balance of good things and bad things. No one likes to be depressed by reading lots of negative things all the time.

I also agree that people always want the easy way out. And the worst part is, a lot of people seem to be proud of it. Just the other day we were having a floor meeting in my dorm and there was a big debate about the side stairwells being locked so that guys and girls aren't wandering around unescorted on each other's floors. Girls were complaining they don't want to have to take their laundry down through the main stairwell and there was one girl who actually stated "I'm lazy" and proceeded to try to persuade the head RA that her laziness is a legitimate reason for the doors not to be locked.

Posted by: Lorin Schumacher at October 12, 2005 1:24 AM

I think finding an interesting angle in a news story is one of my weakest skills, as a reporter.

I agree that the time Dr. Jerz has spent helping us develop angles in class has been effective, but for some reason, I just can't seem to grasp the concept too well. Most of my stories seem to turn out bland, to me.

Anyone have suggestions or tips?

Posted by: ChrisU at October 13, 2005 10:03 AM

Jenna, you and Katie might be interested in this article, which discusses the low editorial standards for relationship and sex articles in women's magazines. Many people form their standards of normalcy from reading the stories in those magazines, so it's important to note just how much of that is made up by reporters and editors who are trying to gain an audience that will be considered likely targets for the products sold in magazine advertisements.

http://jerz.setonhill.edu/weblog/author/permalink.jsp?id=3782

Posted by: Dennis G. Jerz at October 13, 2005 11:26 AM

Post a comment




Remember Me?