Idea: Journalism is a convenience store

A corner store, branded in the 7-11 colours, says Postmedia on the sign.

I like to imagine different metaphors for journalism. Consider that the press is a giant inertia machine, for example.1

I like to imagine different metaphors as a way to resist, and make evident, the dominant ones. The dominant frames are so common, so worn, they become invisible.

One worn metaphor for journalism is food: it can be refreshing, tasty, nourishing; there’s meat and potatoes; eat your vegetables; some stories are popcorn, nutritionless; news can be homegrown, canned, et cetera.

Another old metaphor is that journalism is sunshine: it’s a disinfectant; light is knowledge; news aids vision; it’s life-giving; “democracy dies in darkness,” et cetera.

Instead of sunshine, or food, what if journalism is the wind: normal, uncontrollable, ubiquitous, annoying; good for kites, bad for fires; important for sailing; impacts some people more than others; dries roads out, bad for outfits, makes people hard to hear, and so forth.

Or, maybe journalism is the weather: unavoidable, completely unaffected by criticism; social glue; helps to prepare for it.

The dominant metaphors are often espoused by journalism believers, and, er, vested interests. Some days, I’m also a believer; I’m on team hope. But.

Some days I think the press is a convenience store. Think about it.2

They sell a wide range of stuff including porn mags, cigarettes, and lotto tickets. We have very little data on their long term impact in the neighbourhood. It’s a lot of Coca-Cola, canned spam, and candy bars. Third parties negotiate for shelf space and visibility. Corner stores are nice, especially in a pinch, but most serious shopping happens elsewhere. They don’t sell diesel or gasoline. The workers are underpaid. No matter how bad the local convenience store is, it’s still not cool to have it shut down. Citizens don’t have a right to have one in their neighbourhood.3

Just an idea.

  1. Or consider that journalism is an index. I guess this is less of a metaphor.
  2. Most newspapers would prefer to be seen as hospitals: life-saving, really important, ought to be publicly funded, heroic.
  3. Also there is some evidence from interviews with journalists, that a common way they self-conceptualize their work is trading.

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