Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear – a great un-news story

I believe we have witnessed history in the first ‘un-news’ event – and I just wish so much that I could have been there.

I refer to the first Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear demonstration this weekend in Washington DC.

Combining two previously separate events (that in itself is a marvellous example of flexible and creative thinking) – comedians Jon Stewart’s Rally to Restore Sanity and Stephen Colbert’s satirical counter-rally, the March to Keep Fear Alive – it was billed as ‘a rally for the people who’ve been too busy to go to rallies’.

The comedians’ efforts were devised because of the concern that too often the mainstream media focuses on the vocal extremists.

The Rally provided a venue for attendees to be heard above what Stewart describes as the more vocal and extreme 15–20% of Americans who ‘control the conversation’ of American politics. (The rally being a satircial response to the earlier rallies called ‘Restoring Honour’ and ‘Reclaim the Dream’).

What Stewart and Colbert were demonstrating was how the media – or indeed any story-teller – operates within certain conventions where it needs a news peg to hang its information.

So, even though there may be a mass body of opinion, representative of a large swathe of the people, unless a peg is created is doesn’t get news coverage.

Hence the Rally this weekend was an ‘un-news’ event, designed to create a news peg.

For many working in public relations will now rush forward and say, ‘but we do this thing all the time in public relations, creating vehicles, whether it be rallies, publications of reports or surveys to create these very news hooks. So, how can this be the first ‘un-news event?

What seperates this apart from other PR activity is how it perhaps is the first, self-conscious ‘un-news’ event; a willfully transparent and blatantly open exercise in news peg creating.

This is not just a nice-feel-good-story-for-liberal-values-media-professionals-everywhere. It could mark a start of a new era of un-news stories and activities. Where the marchers of Washington have trod this weekend – others will follow in their path.

Is this ‘fact’ a news story? Or is it an ‘un-news’ story?

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