The Sorensen Monologues

Archive for September 15th, 2010

This Week’s Cartoon: “Media-Made News, Alternate Version”

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.

Jen Sorensen is a nationally-syndicated political cartoonist whose work has appeared in The Progressive, The Nation, Daily Kos, Austin Chronicle, NPR, Ms., Politico, and many other publications. The recipient of the 2014 Herblock Prize and a 2013 Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award, she tweets at @JenSorensen.