"In It's Not News, It's Fark, Drew Curtis takes a critical look at the mass media. He promises to examine why the news is often not news at all, to look at the fear mongering, the cyclical nature of the news and the fluff that is passed off as important. Drew breaks down these not-news stories into 8 separate categories and gives examples, along with user comments from Fark. Unfortunately, 230 of the books 278 pages (including the index) are used for these examples. What time is spent talking about the media and the advertisement model it is built on, is insightful a bit cynical and very brief." Read below for the rest of the review.The book starts off with a brief Fark history lesson. What Drew did before Fark. Its first incarnation and how it got to be what it is today. The author then gives us an outline of the different types of news stories that he considers not newsworthy. Drew points out that since most news is brought to you by an entity that makes its money selling ads, the more eyes watching those ads the better. History has shown that nothing attracts eyes like fluff, fear and stretching the truth. There is a reason why there are so many tabloids in the checkout lane.
The first type of news story Drew covers is what he calls, 'Media Fearmongering'. Everything from finding bacteria on your keyboard, terrorists in your home town to animal attacks. This is the most easily recognized type of non-story.
We then move on to, 'Unpaid Placement Masquerading as Actual Article'. This includes most surveys, new words in the dictionary and all things publicity stunt related. Everything you'd read in the 'Lifestyles' section of the newspaper.
Next is, 'Headline Contradicted by Actual Article'. Misleading headlines to outright lies are addressed. Drew makes the point here that the people who run these stories often realize that they are misleading at best but know that they will generate traffic.
'Equal Time for Nutjobs' covers Noah's ark being discovered, conspiracy theories and a guy who thinks the garden of Eden and Atlantis are in Florida. The crazier the claim the better.
Then we have 'The Out-of-context Celebrity Comment'. Why do we care what someone who pretends to be someone else for a living, has to say about Nuclear proliferation? Who knows but we sure do.
Drew next looks at 'Seasonal Articles' . The amount of money lost due to a fall in productivity because of the Super Bowl, inspecting your Halloween candy, and traffic spikes during holiday weekends. All of these stories should look familiar.
The next chapter is, 'Media Fatigue'. How do you know when a big story has just about run its course? Wait for the stories about whether or not the media has given it enough attention or if they've gone too far.
'Lesser Media Space Fillers' covers everything that couldn't fit into one of the other categories as well as some of Drew's personal observations of what type of stories tend to get the most coverage.
Each one of the chapters has a collection of Fark comments after every example story. The comments seem to be chosen at random and are frankly extraneous. The only reason I can think of to include them is that someone in marketing wanted to tie the book more closely to Fark.
The final chapter of the book is by far the most interesting to read and only 14 pages long. This is the wrap up of the problem as Drew sees it and what he thinks the mass media should be doing instead. His ideas are well reasoned and in my opinion spot on. As long as the media is driven by advertising they will walk the line of responsible, informative journalism and outrageousness as close to outrageousness as they can and still be taken seriously by a majority of consumers.
My criticism of this book is that almost the whole thing is just a list of Fark stories. If you've read Fark you've read 90% of this book. It would have been more interesting if the book was an actual discussion of the shortcomings of the mass media, why it is in the place it's in and what could be done to change it. Those topics are covered but in such a brief way that they almost seem like an afterthought.
If you like reading Fark and for some reason you want to read a collection of Fark stories and a few comments in a non-computer screen format you will love this book. If you want to read about how the mass media works and some thoughts on how it could be better you'll love 50 pages of this book.
You can purchase It's Not News, It's Fark: How Mass Media Tries to Pass Off Crap as News from amazon.com. Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews -- to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.