Saturday, October 20, 2012

What Does The Yankton Press And Dakotan Have Against Emilie Weisser?

I carefully cultivate my curmudgeon credentials; I follow Groucho Marx's advice and avoid joining any club that will have me for a member. The only time I want my name in the paper is for my obituary. I really don't want it in then, but my wife says she's going to publish my obituary, and I want to keep her happy, so I won't argue with her.

I also was taught that sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. That's why I was confused last February when the Yankton Press&Dakotan published a front page feature about Sadie Stevens earning a Critical Language Scholarship to study Arabic but made no mention of the fact that Emilie Weisser had earned a CLS scholarship to study Russian. I did a bit of rationalization and concluded that Arabic is the hot new language, and Russian is a bit passe. The United States is after all fighting wars in Arabic speaking countries, and the Cold War is over.

Frustration replaced my confusion when the October 10 P&D gave Laura Johnson front page honors because she will begin working with Peace Corps early next year but again ignored the fact that Emilie will be serving with the Peace Corps. Laura is going to Africa; Emilie will begin working with the Peace Corps in Albania next summer. I have no rationalization available for why a service in Africa is more newsworthy than service in Albania.

If I were Emilie, I'd wonder what I'd done to offend the journalism gods or the P&D.

I'm not Emilie, but I find the P&D's selective omissions odd and insulting. If CLS and the Peace Corps service are front page stories when some earn them, those honors should not be ignored when others earn them

I claim no expertise in journalism; I took my only journalism class in the late 1970s. It does, however, seem logical that if one local person has earned an honor, a reporter would contact the organization to discover whether other local people have earned similar honors.

As a news consumer, it seems that local news operates on a basic principle: if one local success story sells, two will sell better. In this case, stories about one attractive recent graduate of Yankton High School would have been enhanced if it had also reported about a second attractive graduate who had achieved a similar honor within the same time frame.

Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe the honors and hard work aren't the newsworthy principle. Perhaps the P&D is governed by the principle the public prominence of one one's parents determines whether achievements are newsworthy. Or maybe, the people running the paper just hate Emilie Weisser.

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