Monday, June 11, 2007

T.V. Nation

When a fictional gangster can leap from the television screen to the B-section of newspaper, there’s something dreadfully wrong in the world of media. Never was the failing and flailing plight of news journalism more evident than when the last episode of “The Sopranos” spurred news articles in several area papers.

Both The Saratogian and the more reputable Times Union wasted ink on summing up the eight-years-running HBO-series, just in case there was a scattered introvert out there that didn’t have an operant synopsis it to begin with. Yes, Sopranomania struck the nation almost a decade ago and, like many shows of its ilk, never really relinquished its chokehold on viewers.

Droves of television addicts followed the flotsam and jetsam of Tony Soprano’s life more closely than their own. But this does not make it news. Regardless of what sort of kooky punch line the writers at HBO sleazed into this snuff drama, the lives of John and Jane Q. Public didn’t change one iota with the series finale. And that’s generally a good barometer for whether an event is newsworthy.

Even the standard “man or the street” articles chronicaling random responses to national news events hold more merit than this drivel, no matter how light-hearted it is. Even the prototypical parade wrap-up at least serves to take a snap-shot of time as it exists in reality. Articles about watching someone else’s reaction to watching television are a waste of valuable ink.

Circulation numbers are down across the board for print news. Even though most newspapers make a profit margin that most industries would consider healthy, publishers continue to make cuts. Nine out of ten times, those cuts come in the newsroom. Fewer reporters, less beats and more news seems to be the mantra of today’s newspapers, hence the precipitous decline in bona-fide content.

So when it comes to filling pages, the editors turn to nonsense like how the Union College students or Uncommon Grounds patrons react to the season finale of “The Sopranos;” or better yet, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. The TU wall-to-wall coverage of the “makeover” in Colonie was nothing short of horrendous.

True, there’s at least a grain of local news there, in the sense that the region was struck by a sort of fever for what was happening around the Oatman residence. But the over-obsessive coverage only served to promote the event, prompting thousands of people to tune in and tune out to the lulling tune of ABC’s faux reality.

Meanwhile, there are dozens of towns and growing that have literally fallen so far off the radar screen of the media that it’s curious if they even exist anymore. Seldom if ever is there a date-line reading Edinburg, Northumberland, Providence, or even Galway, taking from a few examples in Saratoga County alone. Publishers seem to insist there’s no money in such coverage. Then again, when a starting reporter working in the sticks of rural America costs a whopping $350-per-week with no benefits, this argument doesn’t seem to hold much water.

These are the questions the public should be asking as the print news industry struggles to reinvent itself online. The standard reader is quick to fire off wordy letters to the editor about anything and everything under the sun; Bush sucks, Bush-haters suck, too much use of the word ‘suck’ in letters to the editor.

Yet when a bureau is cut or a staff position not filled, the public remains silent. And as long as this remains the status quo, editors will continue to play a shell game with coverage, foisting bull shit stories about television dramas as news instead of relying on hard reporting from the field.

But maybe this is what the public wants. Maybe if the news coverage is winnowed down to quick-hit reactions to Paris Hilton’s latest jail sentence or the second coming of William Hung, the American public can finally relinquish its frighteningly weak grip on its slipping democracy.

4 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are correct sir. I couldn't believe the media frenzy over these stupid TV shows.
No wonder this country is going to hell in the provervial handbasket, we're more concerned about TV shows than wars, poverty and our broken health care system.

11:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i disagree with the comment from the other anonymous up there. i don't believe we're going to hell in a handbasket. but if you DO feel that way, then by god, stand up and do something about it. why are you wasting your time on blogs talking about the problem instead of getting on your feet and FIXING the problem.

we are not more concerned with tv shows than the very serious issues facing all of us today. we're just sick of hearing the not-so-civil discourse volleyed back and forth every second of every day. so we escape... for a couple of hours every night, we loosen our grips on "reality" and regain control of our lives using the only weapon most of us ever really want to touch - a remote control.

shows like the sopranos are not contributing to the downfall of society any more than people's inability to stop bitching and start doing. don't whine. don't complain. don't assemble and protest. lead by example. SHOW us how we should be living, don't TELL us.

7:14 AM  
Blogger Scoop said...

Sort of like, "you are what you eat".

12:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is telling that the number one show in this country is about a family of gangsters. While we think that the US is all about "law and order," secretly we admire criminal elements like the mafia and older versions (Western bandit gangs). Hell, look at the cabal we still have running the White House. Bush himself is entertaining, and that fine line between the theatrical and the real stuff is why so much coruption has been allowed to continue in this county. That other annonymous person mentioned to lead by example... well for one, people need to open their eyes and stop believing all the spin told to us through the mainstream media. That is a good start.

4:30 AM  

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