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Fri, Jul 28, 2006

The Newsman's Paradox: No Time To Read The Paper

I Know Less Than You Do Right Now

Aero-Views OPINION by Kevin R.C. "Hognose" O'Brien

If you want to find out about the overall theme of what's happening at Oshkosh this year, especially in the first few days of the show, you're a lot better off asking an Aero-News reader than an Aero-News writer or even editor right now.

Why is that? Because this week kicks off with us being deluged with a firehose of input. We have to read, record, review, listen, triage, sort and revise, according to our experience and news judgment, all this stuff, and then try to provide you with a news product that's informative and entertaining.

The first few days are especially hectic as exhibitors scramble for the best press conference slots and hit us with several new products, new deals, or new angles a day. In addition to the press conferences with substantial news, there are others where there's really nothing new... but the exhibitor is trying to spin us as if there is.

Then there's other news in the rest of the world, including the every-year sad tale of somebody, or several somebodies, crashing enroute to the event. Businesses are still making deals, and even some that are naturals for this market are tied up deal-making somewhere else.

Governments, commercial and military aerospace, and the airline sector take no notice of Airventure and continue their routine activity. There's still a war on; a couple or three of them, actually. All that generates news.

No one can write it all, so we divide it up. Sometimes you can follow your interests, sometimes you have to accept an assignment on something you don't like, or worse, don't understand well. By the time he or she is done with that report, the reporter is, if nothing else, better educated on the matter than before.

You might not care about every sort of news we report. According to our research, many readers don't, and they often don't understand why anyone would bother with some of the other stuff. But we've also learned that everybody's got a different view of what's "news," what's "important," and what's the "other stuff" that can be gotten rid of.

Believe me, we'd love to trim our workload and cover fewer things in more depth. The trouble is, every sort of story and feature we do has a constituency. I once thought it was wasteful for us to cover Airworthiness Directives -- after all, if you maintain planes, you subscribe to this information yourself already. To my personal surprise, I found that numerous readers, including many who have access to more official AD reports, value this information.

We have people who are generalists and people who are in-depth experts on almost every facet of aviation. Most of us are here because we love the industry, or sport as the case may be. But the nature of the news business means that we won't have time for anything more than the narrow, blinkered view of the stories we're personally covering, which usually but not always are in our field of expertise. We don't even have time to read our own site to see what our colleagues have done (we usually catch up after the show).

So, the paradox is that you the reader may know more about what's going on in Oshkosh today than I do. As long as a story takes longer to write and report than it does to read, that'll probably always be the case, although we're always looking for a way for technology to streamline our work (The Automatronic WriterBot 7000 shows some promise... but it only wants to cover warbirds -- Ed.)

Despite the paradox, I'll be heading out today to try to cover stories that will, one hopes, be informative and interesting to both of us. And at the end of the day, if you read the whole site, I'll still know less than you do.

FMI: www.aero-news.net

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