Under the current rules of journalism, writes Edward Wasserman, coverage is rewarded if it "racks up the page-views, attracting audiences through search engines and enabling publishers to charge advertisers more." The problem (which Britney Spears seems determined to demonstrate) is that a story's popularity often has little to do with its importance. "Journalists don't peddle goods, they offer a professional service, a relationship," Wasserman writes. "The news audience renews that relationship to get information and insight on matters it trusts journalists to alert it to, even though the news may be disquieting or hard to grasp. ... News can indeed be recast successfully as a menu of competing distractions. The question is whether we can afford the price of such success."
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