Tuesday, 17 January 2012

"The victim lies at the heart of many texts. Myth reconciles people to the tragic and seeming randomness of human existence. Plans, careers, dreams and lives can be shattered in an instance by a lightening strike."

Jack Lule's Daily News, Eternal Stories seeks out seven master myths and shows them to be present in our everyday news media. The task I have set myself (both to begin writing again, and to give some form to scattered thoughts) is to identify those myths, not within news stories but within the story of news itself.

It is often said that every great story contains one of these myths. For me, for a story to be truly great, it must contain them all. Is the story of news truly great?

The first of Lule's master myth is The Victim. Innocence and death are central to this theme, the paragon of virtue snatched from us before their influence was truly felt. So who plays this role?

Well, from this 2012 perspective, it's the humble print paper. The worthy, noble, talented, ethical, investigative citywide paper that somehow stitches together a community ravaged by post-industrial decay, community diaspora and crime with stories about, well, post-industrial decay, community diaspora and crime. Dwindling sales, competition from online news (often from the paper's own own online edition), a workflow structure resistant to change, as well as steadfast and obdurate owners who see value in different terms from those who work for that value.
"News, as myth, turns death into sacrifice. A story is gathered and told. A passing is marked and mourned."
We all recognise it from The Baltimore Sun in The Wire, stereotype that it is. You are doing excellent work, but we need less with more. Hell, even when it comes to selling papers, its proving difficult (as the New York Times has found with its attempts to offload The Boston Globe).

But of course, it's the journalists who are the real victims in this story. Educated, trained and experienced, they end up competing with themselves, having to reducate themselves, find themselves becoming developers and designers and social media gurus. They have to learn CSS and HTML and read books on community building through marketing on the late train home. When was the last time you paid for news?

There's hope of course. These are talented people and surely there's a myth that salvages them, right? Perhaps. But not quite yet. Firstly, another myth emerges - that of the The Scapegoat.

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