I had a respectable and amicable discussion with a producer of the USA Radio Network news this morning. He agreed with me that he personally didn't find a story about Paris Hilton newsworthy, but felt that several of URN's listeners would, so they decided to include it. Suggesting that he was not the best person to be talking to about the subject, he gave me the e-mail address of the executive news director. This is the e-mail that I sent to the director.
I would have expected it from CBS, from CNN, and even (especially) from Fox. But I was rather surprised this morning that your hourly broadcast included a story of 20-30 seconds about Paris Hilton going to jail or something or other. I say something or other, because I turned off my radio when the story began and counted to 15 before I turned it back on, and the story was still not complete, so I turned it off again.
The news that you normally present is very enlightening, educational, and important. Paris Hilton—and any stories about her—are none of these.
You have, I think, about 5 minutes of news time at the top of each hour. Even if anything about Paris Hilton could be construed as newsworthy, there are far more important stories to consume 10% of your broadcast with than to let everyone know that she went to jail.
The real problem, though, is that anything about Paris Hilton is NOT newsworthy. At best, it could be considered entertainment, although she is a poor and embarrassing excuse for what passes as entertainment in American society. Some of your listeners may demand information about Paris Hilton, but demand does not make an issue a news item. Ironically, I suspect that the caliber of your listenership would NOT demand stories about her; instead they are probably also a bit confused as to why you would pollute your news reporting with such stories.
It is the responsibility of a respectable news organization to report the news, even if the failure to include titillating non-news stories causes a decline in listenership (based on your news market, I suggest that it won’t). From my past experience, I expected better from USA Radio Network. I will continue to listen, but I hope I don’t have to hear about Paris Hilton anymore.
I'll let you know if and how the director responds.
I feel sorry for Paris Hilton, as much as I feel sorry for any other person who has come across misfortune--whether self-inflicted or not--in their lives. But there are many such people in the world, and they are never in the news. The only "contribution" that Paris Hilton has made to society is to become a celebrity who encourages the degradation of societal morals. People who want to know about her in her current state can watch one of the mindless Hollywood magazine programs.