Why I don’t read the newspaper

I admit it. I work in communication, and rarely read the newspaper. Part of it’s a time thing: I feel guilty sitting with the paper for an hour in the morning, when I can multitask at my desk, with tea, online news and email.  But the main reason I don’t read the newspaper, especially regional papers like The Province and The Vancouver Sun, is I feel it’s a waste of my time.

In this morning’s papers, another two examples of the kind of content and flagrant sensationalism that gives print media a bad name.

First, let’s take the drive-by shooting of the daughter of a Real Housewives of Vancouver ‘star’. It made the front page of The Province with the fatuous banner headline, “Reality stars rally for shooting victim.”

Am I in the minority here? Do we really care that a 28-year old woman who hangs out with gangsters (and who happens to be the daughter of some wealthy West Vancouverite who put her life on TV for as long as anyone bothered to watch) got shot?

I care more the story is actually a warning to women about hanging out with guys who are more likely to be shot at. Seems a bit obvious, sure, but at least there’s merit and a message to the story, rather than that portrayed by the headline. Tying celebrity nonsense to serious issues is insulting to readers of any publication, whether tabloid or broadsheet.

[I also got wound up about the use of the word ‘rally,’ which in this story means two tweets, but more about the erosion of language and meaning another time.]

For a second example of journalistic integrity and why I don’t read the newspaper very often, the main, above-the-fold headline in today’s Vancouver Sun reads “Vaccine combo doubles seizure risk in babies.” The much-smaller drop head? “However, threat remains relatively small: study.”

I couldn’t believe it. This, after measles outbreaks here in BC and across Canada just a month or two ago, because, you guessed it, people haven’t been vaccinating their kids. Wonder where most of them got that idea? Could it be media reporting of celebrity nonsense?

I read the story. It explains that the study found that the risk of combining the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine with the vaccine against chickenpox increased the chance of seizures from less than two per 10,000 doses of MMR, to 3.52 seizures in the combined MMRV vaccine.

So some genius at Postmedia News decided to lead with a headline that is, yes, factually accurate, in that there is an increased risk. But is it an accurate message about the story itself? Not even close. I call that irresponsible reporting about a very serious issue.

I think it’s sad it’s come to this: print journalists, editors and publishers default to celebrity (I use that term loosely) and sensationalism to sell more papers. Maybe people like me would read the newspaper more often if it contained consistent, interesting and responsible content and analysis. 

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