Just because “America’s serious news media — whether print, broadcast or cable — are in the grip of a collective nervous breakdown,” writes the LA Times’s Tim Rutten, doesn’t mean we should
allow website hits and social media volume to function as a kind of sub rosa ratings system whose numbers dictate coverage and the play of news stories. What’s wrong with that? For one thing, it leads to the sort of irrational excess we’ve all been through since [Michael Jackson’s death on] Thursday. No reasonable editor or producer should ignore the kind of public interest we’re seeing [in Jackson’s death]. But surrendering utterly to it ultimately undercuts what’s genuinely valuable about serious news media.
A serious newspaper or broadcast news outlet must simultaneously be a mirror and a window to its audience — a look at themselves and an opening to the wider world.