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updated: 2/6/2014 6:28 AM

Information can do only so much; what counts is how we use it

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Random thoughts journalistic:

• We editorialized on this topic Wednesday and it's been a prominent cause for the Daily Herald at least since our first "Hidden Scourge" series more than a decade ago, so I'm not sure what more there is to say about heroin use in the wake of Philip Seymour Hoffman's death, but ...

That's part of what's so frustrating about the topic.

Can there really be nothing more to say than to trot out a seemingly endless parade of celebrity tragedies as object lessons and repeat just as endlessly the phrase, "Don't do this. Don't do this. Don't do this."?

Publicity, obviously, is not enough. What counts is what people do with it.

I'm reminded of a headline and story I saw once in the parody newspaper The Onion, "Nation Somehow Shocked By Human Nature Again ... 'How Could Someone Do Such A Thing?' Populace Wonders Of Event That Has Transpired Literally Millions Of Times."

That story included a spoof on news media that portray unspeakable tragedy "as if it were a novel phenomenon," and after quoting a fictional Daniel Romero as saying, "You have to recognize that each day you have is a gift and always remember to cherish your loved ones," concludes with this paragraph:

"At press time, Romero remained unaware that he, like everyone else in America, will completely forget the incident within a week and then abandon his own sensible advice."


RIP, Mr. Hoffman, and all those who will follow.

• There is no diplomatic way to segue from that sentence to my next thought, so I'll simply remark that speaking of things whose repetition we seem to ignore, we just completed two weeks of wild publicity, controversy, bluster and hype for a Super Bowl that ended in a blowout and people seemed to find the commercials disappointing. Sound familiar?

• Probably. But here's something about advertising you may not have noticed. The statistics website recently reported that a global Nielsen survey found that people trust newspaper advertising more than any other. Magazine and TV ads weren't far behind. Of 10 media types studied, online advertising anchored the bottom five positions, with search ads doing best. Only 44 percent of the 29,000 people surveyed said they trust such ads.

I say it often and will repeat it here, though neither my regular subject matter nor my expertise is advertising, newspapers' primary commodity is not just information but trust. Ultimately, as web information sources continue to evolve, I'm convinced that trust -- developed through our efforts to provide unbiased, well-rounded perspectives on news stories and public issues -- is what will distinguish traditional newspaper companies and enable us to thrive.

• Finally, a closing thought about weather stories. It should hardly be news if Chicago gets a cold snap or snowstorm in December, January or February. Somehow, it always is. But I think we can all agree that the whole thing's just getting ridiculous now. In the spirit of an editorial we published a week and a half ago, I will be so glad when we have something else to write about.

Jim Slusher,, is an assistant managing editor at the Daily Herald. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

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