On Salon.com, Michael Bartel grapples with the apathetic reaction to two major stories: “The War Logs” and “Top Secret America” (which I absolutely loved). Is it becuase America’s political culture and public life are so fundamentally corrupt that revelations of massive government incompetence can barely elicit a semi-surprised “Huh” from millions of weary taxpayers? Maybe, but Bartel examines why these stories failed to burrow counterclockwise into the public imagination and grow pale and bloated on its blood:
Both “Top Secret America” and “The War Logs” were referred to as pieces or packages, not “stories.” That’s no accident, since telling a story is precisely what each fails to do. For all the hard work these stories required, the media failed to do the more basic work of finding a hook beyond the fact that the information exists — a photo, a video, an illustrative chunk, a news peg, a scandal. If an important story is published but doesn’t make a sound, no matter how accurate it was, it means the media, in some way, got it wrong. Data is not enough. If they want the public to care, reporters still need to craft taut, compelling stories keyed to the moment of their publication.
Oh yeah. Stories.