Home > Journalism > Media dies and America lies – Calling bullshit on popular opinion

Media dies and America lies – Calling bullshit on popular opinion

Think I’m off base? Try this on for size: In May the average American spent 127 hours watching TV. That comes down to just over 4 hours a day. Add on the fact that Americans spent an added 24 hours on the net, and the daily consumption rises to nearly 5 hours. Don’t have time to read? Bullshit.

Last week the LA Times announced 250 layoffs. The reason? Declining revenues, steep costs, and the fact that readers said they “don’t have time to read the paper.” The publisher bit, and since it’s all about the bottom line succumbed to the pressure from stockholders.

We all know the story by now: newspapers are dieing, magazines are floundering, and the Internet is a wild west with copyright infringement flying just as fast as Billy the Kid’s gun. And yet is it less about time and more about being lazy that has pushed us into the ideology that we just can’t afford to read the news.

An interesting article the other day suggested that reporters and literary types are the only ones who really care about reading an actual story. The rest of the population merely wants facts. Think Twitter–micro blogging–consisting of a few sentences instead of long laborious paragraphs.

“Obama beats Hillary to claim Democratic nomination.”

“Obama and Hillary unite in Unity. Every under-thirty-year-old rolls their eyes and grimaces with embarrassment for the wag-the-dog stunt.”

“Newspapers are dieing, while publishers continue to try old media tactics.”

Sound ridiculous? Sure they are just headlines, but isn’t that a majority of the news these days?

So do I have an answer? No, not necessarily, but I do have some ideas.

– When Newpapers produce video, produce strong video. Something better than a high school punk with YouTube. Look at the NYT’s for examples, but even then their videos are mostly all the same. Break the mold, take risks, and understand that editing is just as much a craft as writing.

– Do not be afraid to try new things and fail. I know it costs money, but those who take risks online will ultimately succeed. For instance, social networking brought college kids together, while journalists, businessmen, and others were skeptical. By the time Facebook hit the “money making generation,” it was being run by young kids posting bong hits. Newspapers had a unique platform to reach hundreds of young readers on their turf, and yet nobody aggressively went after the market.

– Educate your staff. There has never been such a divide in newsrooms as there is today. Twentysomethings are ingrained in RSS feeds, social networks, YouTube, digital video cameras and editing. Sure the generation has a ton to learn, but the hesitancy to “figure everything out,” just isn’t there. Take senior editors and pair them with younger staffers. Create a two-way mentorship that elevates both parties skill sets. Sure some will have to swallow their pride, but a strong staff, a staff willing to weather such times, will do just this–put themselves out there and agree to learn.

Finally, stop running and embrace the fact that change is required. Then and only then will we see ‘real’ change on a mass market level. And don’t forget, America has time! At least 5 hours a day and it’s up for grabs.

Categories: Journalism
  1. James Menard
    July 9, 2008 at 1:19 am

    Pretty insightful, Tim. I was at a customer’s home recently and while I was working she read me the headline, “millions of Americans will lose their homes to foreclosure this year.” –And she swallowed it! I mean folded the paper up and walked away! Without even reading the pittance of an article that was there, she took her factoid and went on her way. People are content with what the media tells them and don’t bother to delve any deeper. The media knows this and spews headline after headline without doing any ‘real’ journalism! When I see or hear a story about any celebrity filling 2 minutes of a 30 minute newscast, it makes me want to spew something of my own. Information is so easy to come by these days and we are somehow getting less of it. Go figure.

  2. July 14, 2008 at 3:20 pm

    I am in complete agreement with this post. Old media tactics have no place as a majority strategy in today’s market. Take a risk, get out there and try to move things forward!

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