Oops, sorry, wrong question. What’s news?
Having never had the benefit of studying journalism — there was just something about the whole “objectivity” thing that ran counter to my highly subjective view of the world — I’m struck by what a tough question that seemingly simple question turns out to be.
For example, we would probably all agree last week’s Pique story about 62 local B.C. governments signing the Climate Action Charter — thus agreeing to make their operations carbon neutral, whatever that means, by 2012 — was news. The more cynical among us would consider it news that 62 governmental entities agree on anything. And those of us hopelessly cynical will consider it monumental news if any of the 62 actually manage to even turn the corner on their carbon emissions and begin to measurably reduce them at all by 2012.
Why was that news? Let’s face it, governments are always full of… lofty goals and ideals. Press releases from governments touting noble goals reach newsrooms like confetti reaches floors at New Year’s parties. Press releases announcing goals have actually been met? Less like confetti. More like finding a hundred dollar bill floating on the breeze.
But that announcement was news. It met the criteria. It was immediate, the UBCM conclave had just wrapped up. It was arguably proximate; if it happens, it will probably have some impact on our lives. Assuming it is followed by actions, it meets the test of being consequential. And, of course, it was announced by prominent, powerful folks.
And perhaps most importantly, someone had the presence of mind to think, “Hey, I’m betting our constituents would want to hear about this. Maybe we should tell them.”
I don’t know who had that last thought. It might have been someone whose job it is to communicate what the UBCM does. It might have been a PR person. But somewhere in the background, the people making the decision and the people responsible for communicating the decision came to a meeting of the minds, either implicitly or explicitly. Communication doesn’t just happen. It ain’t like breathing.
Which leads us to today’s question. Why wasn’t the decision to bump Whistler’s fire chief to the head of the non-market housing line deemed news? Why wasn’t it communicated to the community?
Was it news? I’ll go out on a limb here and say yes, yes it was news. Why was it news? Well, let’s run it through the screens. It passes the test of immediacy; it was happening more or less in real time. It passes the test of proximity. In a town of 10,000 or so permanent residents where over 1,000 are represented by the 705 names on WHA’s waitlist I feel secure in saying at a minimum 10 per cent of Whistleratics were definitely interested to know they’d just been bumped down a rung on the ladder.