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Returned from Recent Travels



Perhaps my coming posts will seem more timely than some of my recent posts.

But I solemnly promise to make no serious effort in that direction.

I have never aimed for timeliness.

I remember long ago reading a discussion about the "three kinds of news." Some news is of scheduled events, and much of the story can be written well in advance, even if it has to be subject to some editing and blanks have to be filled in. Sports news is characteristic. The Red Sox will play the Yankees next Tuesday: a journalist in the field knows in advance which pitchers will start, the full line-ups, etc., subject to last minute scratches that can be taken care of by a quick edit. He could write most of that story before the first pitch is thrown.

The most dramatic sort of news story, though, consists of shocks. The Japanese have just bombed Pearl Harbor. Airplanes have flown into skyscrapers in southern Manhattan. A train has gone off its rails with serious casualties, of as-yet indeterminate severity and number. If you want to write an exciting story about the news business you write it to focus on events like this and the scramble to get the facts right, or the fall-out if the facts are wrong.

In between the shocks and the scheduled events, though, there lie the trend stories. Something is happening -- it was happening yesterday, it will still be happening tomorrow, and it is in its cumulative effect changing our world. The migration of black Americans out of the southern states, into the northern cities, in the years after the second world war, was a very important demographic event, very little covered in the day, because it was a years-long trend, not a shock and not something happening according to a schedule either. The trend stories are unloved and often neglected, and the world is the poorer for it.

In our own time, the centrifugal forces that operate on the Eurozone are a trend story, as is the (related) multi-national rebellion against central bank independence. For that matter, the early phases of a presidential campaign are trend stories too -- the big scheduled events, those primary election nights, are still far away -- the candidates are about the undramatic business of building their networks and tweaking the public's understanding of who they are. When I write about news here, it is generally in such contexts as that, and the "timeliness" thing is not a concern.

And of course most posts aren't about news at all, in any sense.

So it shall remain.

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