Has serious journalism had its chips?

It consisted of around eight sentences, and I imagine took just a few minutes to write.

And it was about……an abandoned bag of chips.

chips snip

But it gave my friends at the Gloucestershire Echo their biggest story of the day – and was picked up by other media across the world.

I spent a fair amount of time discussing this story with some of my first-year journalism students yesterday.

I posed the question: Is there anything so trivial that it would never be written about, so minor that I doesn’t constitute news?

The answer, I think, has to be no.

Some of the old certainties about what makes a news story have gone out the window in recent years, and part of the joy of multimedia journalism is the freedom we now have to tell all kinds of stories in new and engaging ways.

My friends at the Echo have form on the fast food front.

A few years ago, they did a – very successful in terms of web audience – story headlined ‘Is this Gloucestershire’s biggest chip?’, although sadly it seems to have been eaten by the internet.

It may well be that some of the impressive audience for the latest chip tale was viewing the story ironically, with that annoying question ‘slow news day?’ getting many a run-out.

But, gratifyingly, many of those enjoying the story had their tongues as firmly in their cheeks as did the Echo’s news team.

The media website Hold the Front Page suggested the piece might be an attempt at chickbait in its Friday Funnies section.

And it came in the week that veteran editor Peter Barron – a man I have huge time and respect for – stepped down as editor of the Northern Echo, with a warning that journalism must be more than simple web target-chasing.

I was also taken with this fascinating piece in the Guardian about the chicken (there is it again) and egg nature of journalism.

All of which reminded me of one of my favourite quotes about journalism…

candy

At the end of the day, if all the Echo had done on the day in question was write about abandoned KFC meals, our industry would be in a pretty poor state.

But on that same day, reporters were covering a major fire, the sentencing of a death crash driver, and dozens of other more serious stories.

The real inconvenient truth is that the modern journalist has to be all things to all people, covering the full gamut of human life – chips and all.

 

 

 

 

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