Free-Floating Hostility

Friday, February 23, 2007

Ken Auletta, Please Report to the White Courtesy Phone

We went out to dinner once with a former Spec colleague whose then-current job was to decide what news stories would go on the Yahoo! homepage. My memory of her explanation of the job (spotty, given that it was three years ago) was that she had an eight-hour shift in which she sifted the wire and changed the stories on the front. Actually, what I remember from that night is Anna leaving in a towering temper as the former colleague referred to herself as a "journalist" and expressed an opinion I no longer remember about the Jayson Blair scandal (How long ago does that seem? I actually had to look up the spelling of his name).

But it does seem strange that I've never seen a story about how news and features find their way onto those home pages. I mean there are probably a huge fraction of web users that are savvy enough to open a browser and maneuver around the Internet, but not savvy enough to figure out how to change their homepages. So loads of people are checking out the news offerings they've selected, but there's no real understanding on how those stories are getting up there. And these people are exerting a huge amount of influence over what news many people are seeing. I can't believe the conservatives aren't all over this.

Actually, though, this whole post was an excuse to link to this story, a piece about an elderly tourist in Costa Rica killing a would-be mugger with his bare hands. This was on the AOL homepage just now.

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