The danger of "headline news!"

Taking nothing away from the tragedy and damage of Hurricane Katrina and the long term effects of this natural disaster, I have to question the “headline news” mentality of our culture and wonder what happened to journalism? Case in point a conversation between Hugh Hewitt and Frank Gaffney from Hugh’s radio program as transcribed and posted at Radio Blogger:

“HH: Now, speaking of the war at home, I ran across an article today that I had not seen, from Daniel Pipes’ site, about the Los Angeles terror plot that got broken up. I don’t think anyone has much seen this, and you’re mentioned in it. Do you want to explain to people what was going to go down here in another couple of weeks?”

“FG: Yeah. It’s one of those stories that because it didn’t happen, thank God, it got very little attention. It’s one of those instances where those heroes of the home front, I think through a lucky break in this instance, were able to prevent something pretty awful from taking place in the Los Angeles area. What transpired, evidently, was that a plot that had been cooked up inside a state prison near Sacramento, New Folsom State Prison, was discovered when guys who had been part of the prison community had converted to this radical strain of Islam, which is being inculcated in many prisons around the country, unbelievable as that may sound, got out at the end of their sentences, and went on a crime spree, knocking off various gas stations, I think, in the greater Los Angeles area, to pay for attacks that they envisioned conducting around the time of the Jewish high holidays, against Israeli targets, specifically, the Israeli Consulate in Los Angeles, the El Al counter, I believe at LAX, several synagogues, and then it was said several National Guard facilities as well. It was going to be, apparently, quite a bit of mayhem, and it was only stopped, apparently, according to the indictment, because one of these prisoners, ex-prisoners, converts, dropped a cell phone in the course of one of his stick-ups. And as a result, the law enforcement community did a major investigation, found him in the course of another robbery, stopped him, and started rolling up the rest of the cell. But it’s an example of this Islamo-fascist ideology we’ve talked about so many times, Hugh, at work in what you would think is a secure facility. But it’s there because we’re allowing Islamo-fascist proselytizers inside, and by gum, they’re recruiting. And Heaven help us the plot we don’t detect the next time.”

This is the type of story which journalist used to investigate, report and sometimes win legitimate Pulitzer prizes. Today this story is not to be found as journalism has been replaced by “media.” The media of today is so driven by ratings that the once self proud field of journalism is now dominated by an entertainment mentality where evoking an emotional connection to the audience is more important than conveying the important facts which are all around.

This story, “reported” by Hugh Hewitt, is an important story and yet will Hugh be nominated for an Pulitzer prize? Very unlikely. It is more likely that Shepard Smith, whom I enjoy watching, from Fox News will be considered for his “gripping” and “heroic” presentation delivered in front of the tragic background of a dead body lying in the street. The next great news organization will be the one that figures out how to communicate real news in the traditional journalistic manner while holding an entertainment minded audience.

Thank you Hugh Hewitt, Frank Gaffney and Radio Blogger for seeing that this story gets the attention it deserves.

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