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News Can Make Itself

The coverage of the tragedy at Virginia Tech is the most recent example of how news stories can "make themselves."

The killings in Virginia certainly were news worthy of national coverage--what I am focusing on here is how news stories can prompt other issues to become stories.

For example, in this case, after the coverage of the main facts and background of the shootings in Virginia, stories now appear around issues only related to the tragedy. The Star Tribune published a story about security at Minnesota colleges and campuses; the Daily has been publishing opinion pieces on gun control using VA Tech as an example; MSNBC.com links to an opinion piece by a soldier wondering why flags are half-staff for the students, but not for Iraq casualties.

This spreading activation in the news is expected and often appropriate. The tighter airport security after 9-11 is an example of improvements made to some system after a national news story.

It seems that it is necessary for some widely-known event to occur for certain issues to gain prominence and respect, which is understandable.

But how can the media make less "famous" news more important to people when the issue is long-term, like global warming? I cannot think of when "green" issues get lots of coverage apart from when famous people bring them up, like Al Gore's movie, or when a report or annual event like Earth Day occurs.

Can the media attract attention to more long-term news without a "prompt"?