James Fallows offers a list of benefits that the journalist has the potential to offer consumers. I would like to share his list and see if there anything he left out of the list.
Perspective – reporters and editors are forced to act as a filter when deciding what to investigate and publish out of the endless supply of things that could be investigated and published. (This is the same basic process that the Attorney General has to go through when deciding whether he should be investigating the BCS or the Payday Lending industry.)
Placement in Time – little if any of the news that journalists choose to cover comes without any preceding events. On the other hand, many of those preceding events have gone unnoticed before the newsworthy item registers in the public consciousness. This might also be called “context.”
Similarities and Differences – most news items are not singular events. News has the potential to help us understand how the current event compares to previous similar events. This would allow us to learn what we can from prior experience and also know where we are breaking new ground.
Usefulness – there is a difference between information that is interesting and information that is useful. While there is some value in merely interesting information, that which is simply interesting should not crowd out that which can actually be useful to the news consumer. (News Fluff/Flash covers this idea.)
This seems like a reasonable list of offerings for journalism to tackle as an industry. Getting it right would be a challenge, but a very worthwhile challenge. I would be very interested in supporting a news operation that consistently gave me useful coverage of the things that mattered – rather than simply a datastream about what has been happening. If that coverage offered the placement in time and information on the similarities and differences between the curent event and past events of the same type I would find such an organization indispensible. (In fact I do find such coverage to be indispensible, but I don’t find that coverage from traditional sources.)