Who cares about the fiscal cliff when there’s lottery-mania to cover?

Former Greensboro News & Record editor John Robinson wrote on Sunday: “Because we have more reporters than we know what to do with, let’s see now, we can assign reporters to…”

His list:

* Interview people lining up to buy tickets.

* Review exactly what 1-in-175 million chance of winning actually means. (You don’t have a prayer.)

* Show graphically now many times 425,000,000 one dollar bills would stretch around the world.

* Remind readers/viewers of past winners and the good/bad luck they’ve had since winning.

* Interview that guy who gives what he calls tips on how to win the lottery.

I told Robinson this afternoon that I’ve seen all of the stories he listed, but have yet to spot the dollar bills graphic. (I liked this Mercury News graphic that points out you’re more likely to be killed by a coconut than win tonight’s jackpot.)

“Have you spotted all 5 since your 11/25 post?” I asked the newsman. “Curious if you’ve seen any examples of lottery stories that you thought were done right. Any *really* dreadful ones? Angles that have been missed?”

He replied:

Actually, I’m embarrassed that I missed some [angles] on my Sunday list!

I haven’t really searched, but I haven’t seen any that justified a reporter’s time. (An anchor reading a few paragraphs from a wire story is fine. A newspaper running a wire story is fine. They take no staff time.)

As for the dreadful ones, boy, to me, most of them are dreadful. They’re full of cliches — a greater chance of getting struck by lightning! Money can’t buy happiness! — and shed little light on, well, anything.


From AP’s story: “In the hours before Wednesday’s drawing, Associated Press photographers fanned out across the nation to meet ticket buyers and ask about their lottery fantasies. Here’s a look at what they found:” Wait. What? They fanned out across the nation? That’s serving the public how, exactly? If I were still a newspaper editor, I’d be on the phone to the AP bureau asking for a day’s refund for that.

That said the Today Show led with the lottery story this morning. The lottery is the biggest story of the day? Take THAT Susan Rice and Fiscal Cliff and Sandy survivors in Long Island!

OK, OK, sorry. I’m no lottery expert. I’ve even bought a ticket. This is just part of my campaign to stomp out predictable, cliched news coverage that doesn’t truly help readers or viewers.

Now, if the reporter would look at problem gambling or how the state spends its lottery proceeds or whether the lottery truly attracts the poorest among us then that would be something. Of course, they never do. They just roll out the cliched piece on odds, on winning strategies, on lines of excited buyers, on how it doesn’t buy happiness.

Is it a big deal? No, it’s just another story in a day full of stories.

* Chances of avoiding lottery stories are 1-in-175 million (johnlrobinson.com)
* Newseum: “Coverage of the record-breaking Powerball jackpot made our top nine front pages today” (newseum.org)
* Author: “Although no one studies it as much as I do, I am still stunned by the way people are fascinated by the lottery” (facebook.com)