The Pointlessness of News

When I posted about the astronaut attempted kidnapping story the other day, I hadn’t realised it had already become a major global story. Now Freakonomics co-author Stephen Dubner asks: Why?

I realize the story represents a sort of perfect storm of media stickiness — a female perp and a female victim, lust, revenge, NASA, pepper spray, and of course the diaper — but I have to confess that I am overwhelmed that this has become such a round-the-clock story. Who cares, and why? They were even talking about the story on the two ESPN shows I saw pieces of last night (SportsCenter and Pardon the Interruption); in each case, the anchors sheepishly acknowledged that the story had zero to do with sports but… they simply couldn’t resist.

With 63 comments so far, there’s plenty of interesting ideas. Well worth the read. The highlights for me…

High-brow tip o’the hat to the guy who quoted Henry David Thoreau:

And I am sure that I never read any memorable news in a newspaper. If we read of one man robbed, or murdered, or killed by accident, or one house burned, or one vessel wrecked, or one steamboat blown up, or one cow run over on the Western Railroad, or one mad dog killed, or one lot of grasshoppers in the winter — we never need read of another. One is enough. If you are acquainted with the principle, what do you care for a myriad instances and applications? To a philosopher all news, as it is called, is gossip, and they who edit and read it are old women over their tea.

Media-awareness hat-tip to:

In this internet age, news organizations have a built-in focus group. If they post this on their site and gets lots of page views (people clicked to read the article), they know it is a “winner” so they cover it more.

And the low-brow hat-tip to the very first comment:

A woman in diapers pretty much does it for me. If you don’t understand this story then I suggest that you are sexually dead.

God I love the Internet…