I’m not one of those people who like to say, “Why is the news always so negative? Why can’t they report the GOOD news?” I can’t stand those people. News outlets must report unpleasant facts, for sure. But what I question about the case of pastor Terry Jones — who, as you may have heard, threatened to burn the Koran — is its newsworthiness. Had some major American political figure (Sarah Palin, anyone?) threatened to do that, I’d call it news. But some podunk preacher with a congregation of 50? Please. That’s a PR stunt, a “News of the Weird” story at best.
It’s important to remind ourselves that news doesn’t just happen; it gets created. Lots of things happen every day, and it’s the job of journalism to select what’s important. In the case of 24-hour cable news, controversy — especially of the “culture war” variety — will always trump stories about peace efforts. I used to do web work for a professor who ran a number of interfaith programs at the University of Virginia. (Yes, that page still bears my handiwork.) As far as I know, he hasn’t attained even a fraction of the celebrity as that nutball pastor.