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Journalism as a picture of exceptions

Journalism as a picture of exceptions January 15, 2013

Mollie Hemingway, in the context of a post on how the media completely ignored a huge evangelical youth gathering, quotes the great G. K. Chesterton on the nature of journalism:

“It is the one great weakness of journalism as a picture of our modern existence, that it must be a picture made up entirely of exceptions. We announce on flaring posters that a man has fallen off a scaffolding. We do not announce on flaring posters that a man has not fallen off a scaffolding. Yet this latter fact is fundamentally more exciting, as indicating that that moving tower of terror and mystery, a man, is still abroad upon the earth. That the man has not fallen off a scaffolding is really more sensational; and it is also some thousand times more common. But journalism cannot reasonably be expected thus to insist upon the permanent miracles. Busy editors cannot be expected to put on their posters, “Mr. Wilkinson Still Safe,” or “Mr. Jones, of Worthing, Not Dead Yet.” They cannot announce the happiness of mankind at all. They cannot describe all the forks that are not stolen, or all the marriages that are not judiciously dissolved. Hence the complex picture they give of life is of necessity fallacious; they can only represent what is unusual. However democratic they may be, they are only concerned with the minority. [from The Ball and the Cross]

via Got news? The hidden mystery of 60K Christians.

This isn’t a criticism. Journalism has to be that way. But it follows that we shouldn’t let journalism get us down.

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