BoingBoing "How News is Made," with some prior art...

In a wonderful BoingBoing post, Dale Dougherty exposes how the pandemic Black Friday shopping story was manufactured by a retail trade group via uncritically recycled press release.

How News is Made, by Dale Dougherty
There should be a book titled "How News Is Made," a book that could be for journalism what "The Jungle" was to the meatpacking industry. My version would offer no conspiracy theory, but I'd point out the preponderance of sloppiness and lazy thinking coupled with a herd mentality..
[Boing Boing]

Yeah, sad to say, this is nothing new. Fortunately, there already many such books; a rich literature over in the media criticism area. One of my favorites, a bit dated now, but still powerful, is How to Watch TV News by Neil Postman and former TV journalist Steve Powers. (Penguin, 1992). As they said then...

Many stories are originated by press secretaries issuing press releases ("handouts") to the news media...TV Guide in its February 22, 1992 issue, documented story after story in which video supplied by lobbying groups, product manufacturers, and policital candidates was used in news programs without labeling the source.(p.79)

And for those who aren't afraid to be seen reading "subversive" literature, Michael Parenti's classic Inventing Reality is a higher-level systemic critique. I taught this book back during the first Gulf War, and my students thought I was a communist. Sigh.


I work in a newsroom that walks lockstep with those press releases - worse than the Black Friday story was the Cyber Monday story - the hot day for shopping online.
Anyway - the reason that Black Friday works so well is it always falls on a slow news day. No big stories break on Black Friday - work places are closed so no disgruntaled former accountants wig out and goes on a shooting rampage. Also newsrooms are on short staff - a reporter can knock out the Black Friday story without breaking a sweat.