Thursday, September 9, 2010

More Breaking News from MSN...

"Lou Reed makes Susan Boyle cry." How could I not click on that? Out of context (that is, without a picture of her, on the MSN home page), I might not remember Susan Boyle. But with her ugly mug up there in front of a microphone, I could not resist.

Well, it turns out that what actually happened is: "Lou didn't want Susan to perform his song, and he's not a Susan fan," according to a "source" for the New York Post. So he refused permission to use the song, which he can do because he owns the rights. I was hoping the article would say he poked her in the eye or something.

But what else is in the news today? Right away upon signing out of my hotmail account (which is the reason why I get dumped on the MSN home page several times per day), I see in large red letters, "BREAKING NEWS: Pastor says Quran burning won't occur if NYC Muslim center is moved. Developing ..." That's what they call herring font, I think.

The story ends with "Developing ..." but out of everything on the page, it is just about the only thing that is NOT click-able. You can click all of the ads with no problem at all. But this supposed story? It doesn't even show up on the slide-show of the top five newsworthy items. No, that is all "6 Outrageously Overpriced Products" this and "Guys: Here's What Women Really Want" that (and I'll give you a hint on the latter -- you won't find it in some article on MSN that makes gross generalizations based on cultural stereotypes that have been scrubbed clean for our viewing audience). So what's the deal?

Well, this is another non-event that has been manufactured into news. Honestly sometimes I wonder if computers are writing all these stories, but then I think: computers have better stuff to do. Writing articles like the ones on MSN would be a waste of processing power. MSN is still working with more of an x86 chipset mentality... "640k of RAM? Nobody will ever need that much!"

Seriously, though, what is this story about? First, let's find the story. Immediately I scroll down to "What the ... ?" (because you can't say "fuck" on MSN) but all I see is Lady Gaga in a meat bikini, Michael Jackson in chicken wire, and a woman eating 181 chicken wings in 12 minutes (a woman! That's over 15 wings per minute, one every four seconds. Do you know any men who can do that?) but nothing about a pastor or ummm burning books or a mosque...

Well, maybe it is under "Must-see" (sorry, "MUST-SEE") -- nope, that's the Lou Reed story, plus:
- Dog survives crash & finds way home
- Male menopause: Fact or fiction?
- Woman accuses Vince Neil of battery
- Shares of Spam & gas masks soar
- Which city was the hottest?
- Chicago tower gets ice rink in the sky
- Bing: Man sentenced for attacking pelican

Clearly a big news day. Too much to cover any real stories, what with all of the accusations about Vince Neil and the recent spate of pelican attacks. Wait, can a spate be a single instance? Pardon my diction.

In any case, there are clearly more important things that we MUST SEE and MSN is going to show us. But surely they have that manufactured story in the can and you can link to it from somewhere... F5

"Pastor cancels burning, says mosque moving - But sources close to imam behind NYC project deny there's a deal."

Ho, ho. Um, wait, what? Is this really happening? Has MSN been taken over by some weird pastor who wants to burn books, or by the imam who wants to build a mosque (which would add to several that I believe already exist) in New York City? Seems like those are the two parties that stand to benefit, at face value. Publicity for both sides, with some pretty crazed followers on both ends of the spectrum. But why is MSN covering this story.

The simple and obvious answer is the same as why do they do anything else: clicks. They want to generate revenue, so they write things that people will click on. This story isn't about anything. The mosque is not at "Ground Zero," nor is it the only mosque in the area. I'm sure that this pastor isn't the only nut with his panties in a bunch about it, too. But it is an angle, and it is easy. It has to be easy to read, or nobody will read it, and evidently it has to be easy to write too, because I'm not seeing anything better.

This isn't even funny anymore. The misdirection is so obvious and in-your-face that it doesn't take much to fail to notice. Tell me: is this a real news story? Take a look at your favorite "news" outlet, at their main page. How many of the stories are "real" stories? How many of them exist only for click-through revenue? How much does that matter to you? What drives your interests? If you are a happy consumer, then there is no problem. Otherwise, where to look for anything?

1 comment:

  1. My favorite news site is Narco News (, and everything on their front page right now is real news, except for a few meta things (they were looking for a new webmaster). OK well that's my favorite NEWS site, my favorite "news" site I guess is the huffpo, hmm looks like their front page right now isn't all that bad, though it does get trashier as you scroll down.

    I've had a fantasy forever of how I'd like TV news to work. I've decided lately that there's no chance it will happen unless I do it myself, so I've been thinking about trying to actually organize and do it. This is how it would go: There would be no talking heads. There would be no anchor. There would be no one except field reporters who are actually investigating something. To whatever extent possible even they wouldn't narrate, instead filming the actual people affected explaining their own experiences in their own words. Video of a newsworthy situation giving voice to people actually involved, cut, video of a different situation, cut, another, & that's it.