greg dahlen

Alumnus, academy of achievement


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what makes a story go national, or international?

Certain incidents and events become known across a nation where many or most people are aware of them, thinking, talking and feeling about them. Here in the U.S. I can think recently of the trial of George Zimmerman who killed Trayvon Martin as one such story, and Miley Cyrus's appearance at the VMA awards where she "twerked" vigorously as another. One international story is the problems of Greece, and I imagine Barack Obama's election made some waves in other countries (did it?) What is it that makes certain stories get many people's attention and awareness? Is it that there's a lot of emotion in the events involved? Is it that something in the story impinges on many other people's lives, and how does that work? Perhaps there are different factors for why different stories become prominent?

For those in other than the U.S., what stories have gone national in your country?

  • Jan 3 2014: There are 2 old sayings: "If it bleeds, it leads." and "Sex Sells". These rules and whether it is a quiet news period indicates what is pushed. Lets give an example, Miley Cyrus would not have made the headlines if Sandy Hook occurred the same time.
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      Jan 3 2014: well, it makes some sense that stories with physical consequences and sex would lead as those are intense, meaningful aspects of human life. Now why do some of those stories go national, or international, we know that there are many bleed and sex stories that don't go national or international, and we never hear about.
      • Jan 7 2014: 1. It is outrageous (note: something that once was outrageous, is no longer that now)
        2. It involves someone famous or infamous
        3. A publisher, i.e. Murdoch want to make it news
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    Dec 30 2013: 1) what happens to a particular story depends how the media push it and which media covers it.
    Obviously media with a global presence (e.g. CNN) are more likely to get stories heard internationally than others that are not (e.g. HuffPost)
    2) Relevance to international audience. The GZ case was relevant to many outside of the US because it was about racial bias.
    Economy would be another example. What happens economical in the US is relevant to a large portion of the globe. The moment the US economy coughs, European and Asian economies are following suit swiftly.
    Politics are important as well because who leads a country, especially the US, defines how this country interacts and deals with others.
    There are many more examples from other walks of life such as sports, arts, science, etc.
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      Dec 31 2013: I love this question of relevance, now, harald, did you follow the Miley Cyrus "twerking" story, this was where the young Miley, who first became famous as a teen actress, is now trying to make it big as a singer, and she gave a performance where she "twerked," which is a dance where you bend over and roll your buttocks, it can seem sexual to some. What would you say was the relevance of this story to the national U.S. audience, because it was a very "hot" story here for a couple of weeks.

      I am curious, here in the U.S. we get a lot about how horrible the drug cartel wars are in Mexico. Are those stories accurate, what is your assessment of the state of the country?
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        Jan 1 2014: Greg, I'm not a Miley Cyrus fan, so I don't follow what she is doing. However, if a "twerking" Miley can hold the attention of the American public for a couple of weeks then I have to say, I'm a bit worried about Americans.
        As to Mexico, in every story there is a grain of truth. The question is how it is presented to the public.
        The drug cartel problem in Mexico is as real as was Pablo Escobar in Colombia. However, most of the violence happens within drug cartels. Where I live we can walk around probably much safer than in any major US city.
        Obviously, the media is selling stories. And the more sensational the stories are, the better they sell.
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          Jan 1 2014: well, are you saying stories like Miley don't hold the attention of the Mexican public for a couple of weeks? Then what kind of stories do get their attention?

          I tend to think that people are pretty intelligent in what captures their attention, Harald, thus I believe there would have been some good reasons for why Miley captured them. Are you saying people aren't intelligent?

          One question her performance brought to my mind is why it's okay to get up on a public stage and suggest sex, but you can't get up on stage and actually have sex, at least not in America. What are the laws on that in Mexico, can people legally get up on stage and have sex in front of a paying audience, if not I wonder why not?
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    Dec 23 2013: If I have to try summing up in key words of the patterns of news on the media here.It would be like this:
    -tensions,conflicts and war
    -disasters or catastrophes
    -economic crisis,corruptions
    -foreign policies.etc.
    -social issues like food safety ,real estate issue,corruptions
    -national or local polices

    Today one of the headline is that the Gv finalises a proposal to abolish the re-education thru forced labor system. And recently, there's a big discussion among the cyber community on a moral dilemma that people face -when an elderly people unexpectedly fall in the street while walking,what do you do?

    I think whether it goes national or international depends on the influence of the news,including the influence what the media incorporated into the news delivery according to their agenda. And it does affect your views on some aspects of things if you are not aware of it.
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      Dec 23 2013: Amily, your name doesn't sound Chinese, but you live in China? Can you tell me some of your story, I'm trying to understand what influences your particular perspective on media.

      I wonder how there can be so much discussion of the question what to do if an elderly person falls, that doesn't seem like it would be so complicated?
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        Dec 23 2013: Yep,I live in China and am a Chinese.Shaw sounds the closest to my hard-to-read family name so I chose it for convenience. What influences your particular perspective on media?I grow up reading newspaper and what i learn is that what's on the news is not always "the whole picture"or it's just some parts of the story,being aware other source of information.So I started to question who decides what is to be packed into the screen delivery.

        The background of that discussion is several reports on cases where some elderly people were sent to hospital by strangers and then said it's the strangers who pushed them down afterwards.There has been follow up reports on it about social insurance,doubts about modern man's conscience or trust issue within a society.
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          Dec 23 2013: Amily, I have some questions for you about how important the individual is versus the group in China, but I am not sure how to put them, so I'll have to wait.

          In the meantime, are you saying the elderly people fell in the street and then a stranger called for someone to come help the person? But why would people think the stranger who called for help pushed down the elderly person?
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        Dec 23 2013: Usually I think natives might not be the best person to tell their culture because they get so used to and close to it that they can hardly see a difference without reference to another culture.But no pro.I'll be happy to share when you form a question.

        What the news reported is that the helpee (the elderly person) accused of the helper(stranger) of pushing her down so that she asked the stranger to pay for all her fees in hospital but actually she fell down herself .Not sure why people spend much time in this.
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      Dec 24 2013: Well, Amily, here in the U.S. our newspapers also cover major policies and political events. But we also see a lot of coverage of events that only involve a few people, many times it would be a crime that one person committed against another person, or it might be something controversial that one person did, for example, did you hear about Miley Cyrus, she is a well-known young entertainer who went on a TV program and danced in a way that some think is sexually suggestive by bending over and rolling her buttocks. Now do you see a lot of stories like this in China that just focus on one person or a few people and something they did? Would you tell me some of the stories that became national?
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        Dec 26 2013: Yes.We have news on crimes and celerities here as well,which usually cover spaces on national or local news,but rarely make it to international.I don't read news now but scan it sometimes unless there's a need for in-depth reading.(how many worth reading though?)The recent one that Im aware of from the large coverage is a divorce case of a very successful musician Faye Wang and her husband.Nothing unusual about the divorce itself but people talk about it because of her popularity.

        I remeber seeing the Miley Cyrus news somewhere. Isn't being controversy a trick some people play?Being not totally" wrong" and not too plain so that you have different "groups" to interact with each other .Thus, noises made and people hear them.No news means bad news.

        Happy holidays to you Greg and everyone;D
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          Dec 26 2013: Thanks, Amily. Well, I personally would think that people's first thought in doing something is not to create a "trick" controversy, it's to do what they want to do, what they enjoy doing or think is right, but then secondarily what they do is ambiguous so creates controversy. But you don't agree, you think people deliberately do things to create controversy, even when it's things they don't really want to do, or don't really care about?

          How much did Chinese people follow the doings of the performer Michael Jackson, do you think he reached the level of international news, and why is that?

          Now we just celebrated Christmas here in America. But you don't observe Christmas in China I don't think?
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        Dec 27 2013: Hi Greg.What you said is possible too.

        Some people follow that.The reasons I can think of are his reputation and influence and the media coverage.

        Here we have Christmas too but not a national holiday.
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          Dec 27 2013: Thanks, Amily, you sure seem smart, what is your story, are you working or going to school, what sort of work do you do?

          One thing about you, you seem very low-key. Are you often, or ever, excited in your life? Is there anyone you would be excited to meet, can you tell me who?

          You said you only occasionally read the news in depth. What stories attract you enough to read in depth, and why?

          I wonder if you are correct that Faye Wong's divorce is just an ordinary divorce? Maybe it is ordinary in the bare facts, but maybe it is unusual because presumably a famous person has more intense feelings and emotions than an ordinary person?

          Do you mind if I ask you about another matter? I happen to love to drink milk, that is, milk that comes from a cow, and here in the U.S. we drink a fair amount of it. But in Asia they don't drink so much, correct? Do you have any idea why that is, we can say that it is tradition but then why did the tradition start? Here is a list from Wikipedia that shows countries in order, starting with the highest, in how much milk they drink per capita, per capita means per person. You can see no Asian country shows up until number 75:
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        Jan 2 2014: Hi Greg. Sorry for the late reply for I have been away for several days.

        Ha Ha. I do get excited in life!! But I can easily get bored and when you think about something you don't often sound excited, do you?

        What stories attracts ?It really depends on personal preference. I actually followed up that re-education thru forced labor system news as it develops.It starts from the cyber community where this young GV staff wrote something critical against GV with the intention that the GV might improve it's governance and then he was "invited to have tea"(a phrase that means going thru investigation) and dramaticly he was arrested and sent to the forced labor system,accused of spreading inproporiately agitating information and the evidence are articles on his web pages and a T-shirt with "Give me liberty or give me death"printing.(Crazy,I know) And a lawyer later helped him with this case and the final results is that the whole forced labor system is proposed to be abolished.(There are several similar cases) I'm concerned cuz I think this has to do with ourselves. If nobody stands up for anything(very risky tho) then nothing will change.And it's good to see the GV is willing to admit mistakes too.

        Then,it's my turn ;DDDDD
        What makes you want to know why Asian don't drink milk?
        How does that relate to what we are talking about?
        What's the benefits of drinking it do you think?
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          Jan 3 2014: Thanks, Amily. Did you go anywhere interesting?

          Well, there is something rather edited or stripped down when you post your thoughts, I'm not criticizing you, it's just a little different for me from most people as most wander around a bit more. What does excite you in life? Is there anyone you would be excited to meet, famous or obscure? Maybe getting excited isn't all that great, it can be sort of tiring to get excited?

          Sounds like you're into the more serious stories. That's one thing I learned from this conversation, almost everyone who has answered has been pretty serious in the news they consume. I wonder if they're being honest with me, or perhaps they just want to look like they are deep thinkers? For me I usually go to stories that are a little lighter. Today the only news I read was about the Rose Bowl, it was a college football game that was played yesterday very close to where I live. It was extra interesting to me because one of the teams was Stanford, where I got my degree.

          So you really don't consume any light news? What do you do when you need experiences in life that are more light, not so serious?

          Oh, I'm very interested in milk, Amily. I got interested by reading about the Masai tribe in Kenya. They are known for only living on food from their cows, milk and beef. About five years ago I was having some health problems, and the way I fixed them I began to live entirely on milk, what we call skim milk which is milk with most of the cream taken away. Every day I drink about two gallons, or nine liters, of skim milk, and hardly eat or drink anything else. It's very great for weight loss and weight management, and it's also easy on the body to digest and use, I think because it's fluid. It has been so great for me that I wonder why Asians don't drink much, it's surprising to me. Not really related to this conversation, since you're in China I thought you might know.
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        Jan 6 2014: Hi Greg. You seem to have tons of curiosities!:-)
        Yes.Some family time in another place.
        I sometimes modify words as I type as to convey more accurate ideas due to the reason that English is not my first language or sometimes I brainstorm a better idea.People I'm excited to meet would be my close friends in other places or authors Iike Long yingtai or any interesting people.
        " I wonder if they're being honest with me, or perhaps they just want to look like they are deep thinkers?"

        I believe people just present what they think about this issue and take your question seriously and share contemplated understanding to contribute to this thread. Not necessarily how they want others to think about them.

        I don't consume light news but I do watch videos, cartoons or listen to music and chat for entertainment and sometimes Karaok or live music.

        Good that you benefited from the milk .Greg. We have more assembled- lined milk-related drinks than the actual milk.But I don't think that's as good as milk.I don't find many cow farms around.I guess if you want to drink fresh milk you need to be reasonably close to the farm since it preserve just for a short time?
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          Jan 6 2014: can you tell me what Long yingtai writes about that interests you? I see on Wikipedia that she has a newspaper column that appears in mainland China?

          You might be right, it's hard to know whether people are being honest. It might be a question of emphasis, that in life people read both serious news and light news, but when someone asks them what they read, it is the serious news that comes into their minds the most.

          Can I ask what you mean by "videos," do you mean music videos, or.....?

          Would you like to be a newspaper reporter, or columnist, why or why not?

          Well, I'm not sure, Amily, I believe you don't have to be so close because the milk can be transported in trucks. One person told me that the Asian rejection of milk might be because of Buddhism? I don't know, are Buddhists vegetarians? But actually, if Buddhists are not drinking milk, I suppose really they are vegans, correct? Is Buddhism still important in China, is Buddhism considered a religion, and hasn't China outlawed religion?
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        Jan 8 2014: Hi Greg.I know her as being an author instead of a columnist.What interests me? She has this youthfulness energy instilled in her writing,questioning the indifference of people to what's not "right" with the culture,politics ,eventually affecting the well being of themselves and she encourages people to think and talk and make a change with a public spirit and social consciences .And in that way I like her being authentic ,not speaking out for something what people want to hear but what matters.

        Yes.Music concert,comedy,cartoons...many sorts.
        Would you like to be a newspaper reporter, or columnist, why or why not?
        Yes and no.Yes because you are in constant flow of changes in journalism ,new things just keep emerging.No because there's this censorship issue here and I have other priorities.
        As far as I know, Buddhists are generally known as being vegetarians for they believe butchery is inhumane.Some think it's okay to drink milk and some don't.
        Is Buddhism still important in China?
        I think it's still relevant when you think about it's influence in languages,food and art.We have many vocab deriving from Buddhism,e.g. "Yuan "don't know how to explain precisely but destiny or fate would be close and you have "Bao ying" Chinese for Karma.You can buy in supermarkets some Toufu-like food made from certain temples.And it finds it's expression in literature,sculpture,architechture...ect. That's from the past when it flourished here.But today I think it's like any other religions that people convert to various level.
        hasn't China outlawed religion?
        No.Actually they are law-ed.In law,it writes people are free to convert to religion but not to interfere with the social orders.We have legal three-selfs churches(self- supporting,self-governing,self-propagating)but I think it has been" censored".
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          Jan 10 2014: well, Amily, if there is a censorship issue, how is Long yingtai able to get published? Because her writing could shake things up and encourage rebellion?

          Do people in China eat much meat, here in America we have lots of "Chinese food" restaurants, and they serve huge amounts of meat, the menu is meat, vegetables, and rice everywhere you go in Chinese restaurants.
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        Jan 16 2014: Hi Greg.I guess it depends on what get censored and what dose not and that standard changes.And she is with good intention and her works mainly focus on the culture and i don't think her writing could actually shake things up.

        Yes.Dishes with meat, vegetables and rice are quite common.In the north of China people mainly eat noodles, buns or dumplings that are made of flour while in the south rice is preferred.
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          Jan 19 2014: so can you remember any specific subject she took up, what she said about it, and why it interested you?

          Well, if Chinese people are eating meat, then I don't think Buddhism is the explanation for why they are not drinking cow's milk, since Buddhism generally discourages meat-eating? Well, it's surprising, Amily, if you come to market here you will see dozens of gallons of milk for sale in a supermarket. But maybe our broader range of food available makes us struggle more with obesity, by cutting out milk the Chinese might have reduced obesity? But I wonder why they chose to cut out milk, they could instead have cut out meat? If you like to do me a favor, ask your family and friends why they think chinese don't drink much cow milk and if you get an answer let me know.

          Maybe chinese cut out milk because it is product of woman, or female animal? Aren't women somewhat suppressed in asian society? Why is that, do you know?
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    Dec 23 2013: Greg, I know very little about the media and the whats and whys ... But here is how I see it. Every media has a affiliation and direction they follow. So the stories that support their political leanings would be published / reported. The only other real interest the station / paper has is to generate money. They do that by selling advertising and air time / papers / etc .... They have been in the business a long time and know their audience.

    You watch a certain TV news station ... you prefer a specific news paper .... and subscribe to few magazines. They promote what you like and support ... if they stop agreeing with you ... you change.

    A story generated by the AP in London is put on the wire around the world ... same with all of the news wires. There are few sources so we all hear different slants on the same stories.

    Just my opinion I would have a hard time defending all of this.

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      Dec 23 2013: Well, I see from Wikipedia that AP is HQ'd in New York City: Maybe one of their more active bureaus is in London?

      Skimming the wiki, it looks like editors at AP do two things. They have access to stories from various of the newspapers, radio and television stations that own them, and they choose from among them stories to put on the wire. And they also have their own reporters that they can assign to cover stories. I would think in both cases they would have a huge number of choices, in the first case as to which articles they put on the wire from their member owners, and in the second which they would send their own reporters to cover. So the question becomes how do they choose? I suppose the best person to ask would be the editors themselves. But is it good mental exercise for you and I to try to figure out their thinking, Robert?
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    Dec 23 2013: I think, whatever tends to cause intense emotions gets attention. And that can be reduced to very few categories. Sex and suffering are two things that, perhaps cause the most intense response. The "sex" category includes naked celebrities, twerking Miley Cyrus, Clinton-Lewinsky scandal. The "suffering" category includes violent crimes, atrocities, acts of terror, fatal accidents, natural disasters, school shootings. Some events have a "lucky" combination of sex and violence - rape crimes (Ariel Castro, for example). Zimmerman story is a gold mine. Besides being a story of a violent killing (suffering), it touches on issues of race and gun rights. Gun rights are related to violence (suffering again). Race is related to personal identity. People are extremely sensitive to issues related to their identity. This is why issues of race, immigration, and religion also tend to grab attention. Obama these days is associated with healthcare, healthcare is related to sickness, sickness - to suffering.

    I think, this covers a vast majority of what gets coverage. May be, I'm over-simplifying it, like Freud.

    Funny cats seem to be out of the "sex and suffering" category, but, I think, they are still in "intense emotional response" category.
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      Dec 23 2013: I'm trying to think, Arkady, have there been national news stories involving sex that didn't involve celebrities?

      It's true that suffering would be involved in many high-awareness news stories, but there are many stories of suffering that never become national news, right? What is the difference in the stories that do?

      There probably is an aspect of happiness in most stories that go national, wouldn't you think? For example, in the twerking story we might say that there is a happiness for Miley in that she is dancing in a way that gives her pleasure, and could give others pleasure?
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        Dec 23 2013: Celebrities are covered by definition. Others - by chance. I think, the process of getting wide attention is somewhat random. Certain stories have larger probability of getting wide attention. But what actually gets attention can be random as well. You know that "viral" things (and most of the social phenomena) are systems with positive feedback. Such systems pick up random noise and amplify it to the maximum. Try holding a microphone close to the speaker. It's true that not all noise gets aplified - only certain frequencies resonating with something inside the system. I think in news coverage there may be an analogy of this "resonance" - the stories must "resonate" with public. I'm not sure how to define this. I just feel that there is an analogy.

        In most cases, the public response is calculated. The Miley Cyrus video is a great example. I think, it's not an "accident" by any means. The public reaction was carefully calculated. This was a brilliant way to raise a teen celebrity to the status of national celebrity. People who never watched Hanna Montana and barely know who she was now know, for sure. Even people who are disgusted and outraged by her performances watched the videos and followed the news - for the very reason that they are disgusted and outraged. Others - out of curiosity. Many people think, she ruined her career. I don't think so. I think, she just started it.

        I don't think, Cyrus story brings people happiness. I think, celebriy scandals get attention because many people envy "the rich and the famous" and they enjoy reading about their misery - drug problems, cellulitis, divorces, arrests, scandals. I don't envy celebrities at all and these stories do not interest me. But I can understand how they work and why they are getting published.
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          Dec 24 2013: Arkady, would you mind clarifying the hold the microphone next to the speaker thing? You mean hold it next to the speaker when no one is speaking into the mike, or no sound is coming into the mike? But you're saying in that case you would hear something? What would it be?
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        Dec 24 2013: It's an example of a positive feedback system. The microphone picks up the noise coming out of the speaker which gets aplified and sounds through the speaker louder then it is picked up by the microphone and gets aplified again and sounds through the speaker even louder, etc.
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          Dec 25 2013: thank you. Well, I'm still thinking, Arkady, that many stories that go national pose an argument within them where large numbers of people can line up on either side. For example, the Trayvon Martin case had large numbers of people believing Zimmerman should be found guilty, and large numbers thought not guilty. Thus these people could dialogue and debate with each other. Miley Cyrus is the same way, some think her dance is totally acceptable, others don't, thus they can debate with each other. Does my analysis do anything for you?
  • Dec 22 2013: Imperiled Cute White Woman.
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      Dec 24 2013: Yes, although I'd think that doesn't always go national. When it does go national, why does it?
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    Dec 22 2013: When media smells money in something that makes the story to become national / international for long....
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      Dec 22 2013: well, it's true, Salim, that certain stories are going to attract a lot of readers, or viewers, and when you attract a lot of readers or viewers they will also look at the ads and commercials you are running. So my question is, what is it in a story that attracts a lot of readers or viewers? Maybe we can't generalize, it could be something different in every story? But maybe we can reach some principles that apply in many cases? It seems possible to me that a lot of stories that attract readers and viewers involve a moral question, there is some moral controversy at the heart of the story?
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    Dec 22 2013: our mainstream news media in New Zealand is absolute rubbish - low brow, sensationalist pap. also, very obviously politically biased.

    mostly, we get car-crashes, sensationalised stories (rape culture in NZ is the latest) or sleaze from overseas - the President Clinton-Monica Lewinsky scandal got huge coverage here for some reason.

    generally, i avoid the 6 o'clock news and newspapers.
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      Dec 22 2013: Scott, I can't tell from surfing the net in what form rape culture stories make their way into the mainstream media. Rape culture might include a big emphasis on pornography, but I don't think a mainstream newspaper is publishing pornography, so....?
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        Dec 23 2013: there was a recent news story about a group of young men who allegedly preyed on young girls and boasted about it on social networks. particularly abhorrent and so, of course, it was drawn out for several days as a headlining story - the term "rape culture" was coined and the question was sanctimoniously asked by our truth-uncovering* journalists (* = the presence of sarcasm) - is there a rape culture in new zealand?

        i would add that if these sorts of media-coined phrases exist anywhere, it is within the media rather than society in general.
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          Dec 24 2013: Well, in your mind what should they do differently, Scott? Not cover the story at all? Only cover it locally where it happened? Only cover it very briefly? I can see some value in the story in that it warns girls about rape, and stimulates some soul-searching among men and warns them not to rape when they see the punishment the perpetrators suffer.

          I do wonder if there are multiple stories of young men raping, but only some stories go national. I will have to look into that. If there are multiple incidents but only a few go national, I wonder what is different about the stories that go national?

          It looks like rape culture the term was coined in the 1970's:
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        Dec 27 2013: there's no difference between news programming and soap operas in that they are both just forms of entertainment.

        what needs to change is for the public to be more informed about the way mainstream news media operate - selected stories rathe than "news", bias, the role advertising dollars play, and how much depends on image and presentation rather than substance and intelligent journalism.

        if i had my way, there would be no presenters, just scrolling updates and even those would have to be taken with a grain of salt.

        mainstream news definitely only selects the juiciest stories. i would say that what makes a story go national is that the program director decides that it will go national - and i assume that is based on how many viewers it will attract which in turn, i guess, is based on how many people it will "outrage".

        i'm willing to bet the term rape culture wasn't coined by a reporter but i can imagine how a t-shirt style phrase like that was perfect for the news. it's like a lot of those kinds of ultimately generic and hollow phrases like "fake it til you make it" and "fail to succeed". they sound catchy - sometimes they rhyme or even make use of alliteration - but ultimately, they dumb down the issue behind the slogan by over-simplifying and shooting for a headline-style 'grabber'..
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          Dec 28 2013: so would you have covered the story about the young men who abused women (did they rape them?) and then talked about it on social media? It seems like a story of reasonable significance, doesn't it, it certainly affected the people involved.

          Scott, you say news is no different from entertainment, but I would think it is different because it involves real events, not fiction. I could think people turn on the news to be engaged and stimulated, but not in the way entertainment does that. I certainly feel different when I see a real car crash versus one in a fiction movie.

          Not even sure it's so bad to print juicy stories. Don't they have juice because they involve intense feelings, what is wrong with the news consumer wanting the stimulation of intense feeling?
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      Dec 29 2013: Nothing different in my country as well ..... :(
      As a kid learnt from my father to start the day with newspaper , for many years seldom I do. Even of I want to look into the sports section more news are there which player slept with whom or how rowdy some player in the bar then the sports news itself :(
      Reading most posts here and from experience it seems "negative stories" sales more so that's what media is doing ..... Wondered many times as reader can we avoid responsibility ?