BOB GARFIELD: What we have just heard was what they used to call a "human interest story." That's because it's been shown that humans are interested when autocratic mayors of world capitals play out timeless morality tales on the evening news. According to author Jack Lule, that's no accident. In his book, Daily News, Eternal Stories: The Mythological Role of Journalism Lule argues that journalists consciously or unconsciously can't resist reaching for mythic archetypes in reporting the news. Jack Lule, we've just listened to the Giuliani saga. What a mess, but in its way also very appealing. Why is that?
JACK LULE: Well those kind of news stories I think almost always are appealing and it really gets to the root of what news is. We spend a lot of time thinking about news as information, but I think news is most important for readers and for journalists as story.
BOB GARFIELD:Are you suggesting that the essential truth of the event is not relevant but only the storytelling? The narrative rendering of it?
JACK LULE: An event doesn't really happen outside of a narrative, and so we get the events most often in terms of story. Most of us have never met the mayor or his wife or his mistress, but we know plenty about them and we know because of the stories that they've been placed within.
BOB GARFIELD:Now you've gone back to a number of ongoing news stories and you've broken them down according to general categories of mythic archetypes. Could you describe them?
JACK LULE: When I'm talking about myth in the book they're the, the sacred stories of humankind -- these eternal stories. Modern society likes to think it has no need of myth but we get myth daily in the news. We get myths of the hero; we get myths of the victim; we change the names, we change the locales, but the stories remain the same.
BOB GARFIELD: If the reality of journalism is what you've observed it to be, what problems does this create?
JACK LULE:Well I think one of the biggest problems, first of all, is not recognizing the storytelling function of news. An example I use in the book is the coverage of Mother Teresa. Mother Teresa was portrayed as the good mother. That telling of the story left out a lot of things; left out controversy surrounding Mother Teresa. Here was a, a nun who was preaching against birth control in a country that probably their major problem was over-population. Those kinds of things never got talked about however because of the focus on the good mother myth.
BOB GARFIELD: Okay, well for example, David and Goliath, Odysseus -- these are stories of the hero.
JACK LULE:Right. And in my book I talk about modern telling of that story and that's Mark McGwire. They are almost exactly the same story. We have the hero born into humble circumstances, and he rises above adversity. He goes through a dramatic quest, and then he returns a conquering hero. All we've done there is update the story for our times and put it on the front pages.
BOB GARFIELD:So is there anything that we can divine from the way the Giuliani story has been told thus far, for example -- how it's been framed by the press that gives us greater insight into these characters?
JACK LULE: I think that plenty of people find this to be one of the places where the news has gone off track again. I know the mayor himself thinks of it in those terms and he asked the reporters you know what kind of value does this have for the people of New York? But again, he's thinking of news as information, and he's probably right - the information value of the mayor's news story is very little. But for people who are looking at marriages and relationships and how those things should be done-- the Giuliani story gives us a way to think about that and a way to talk about it.
BOB GARFIELD: Jack Lule, thanks for joining us.
JACK LULE: Oh, thank you very much. It was a pleasure to be on the show.
BOB GARFIELD: Jack Lule is the author of Daily News, Eternal Stories: The Mythological Role of Journalism.