With News Worth Less, is Less News is Worth More?

Newspapers are dying all over the country. Television news, on both the local and national levels, is cutting back. We live in a news environment that has more commentary than ever but less and less original reporting.

For reporters and media professionals, this is an opportunity.

Original, investigative, reporting was once fairly standard in newsrooms and, unless the scoop was Watergate big, unremarkable in itself. The relative absence of original information in today’s market, however, and the increase in the number of outlets hungry for news about which to opine, has turned the discovery of new information into an opportunity for a multimedia platform.

Two fairly recent sports books brought this notion to mind. When Selena Roberts learned that Alex Rodriguez, one of baseball’s biggest stars, had used performance enhancing drugs, it turned her about to be released book into an event. She gave interview after interview, in print, on television, on the radio, to blogs, and had an excerpt of the book run in Sports Illustrated (where she is a Senior Writer), all based around what was essentially one fact. Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams had a similar experience with their book, Game of Shadows, about Barry Bonds and his steroid supplier.

During the relative frenzy around their books, the authors seemed to me, at times, to be like a student with a particularly great science fair project who’s asked to show it to all the other classes. “Take a look at my fact. I found it myself.”

In both cases the author(s) already had a strong platform, Sports Illustrated and the San Francisco Chronicle, respectively,  from which to promote their discoveries And in years past the outcome of their work might have been a great magazine article or a series of hard hitting newspaper stories, not a multimedia blitz.

The opportunity then, is in the increased potency of new information that might not otherwise have been discovered. While such nuggets once created a news story or drove it forward, now they’re a book deal and a tour up and down the television dial.

With News Worth Less, is Less News is Worth More?

What Zombies Can Tell Us about the Aughts

You can a lot about a culture from the monsters it embraces. Sometimes even things it might not know about itself. (And we’re talking literal monsters, like werewolves and such. While Bernie Madoff certainly counts as a monster under most definitions, say, no child outside of Palm Beach leaves their closet light on just in case he’s in there.)

In the boom times, earlier this decade, the our monster of choice was the zombie. Starting with the film 28 Days Later and continuing with Dawn of the Dead, the reverent spoof Shaun of the Dead, the excellent black and white comic The Walking Dead, and even the Resident Evil franchise of video games and movies, zombies were everywhere.

What we didn’t know at the time was that zombies really were everywhere.

In everyday life we were surrounded by zombie institutions. Banks and brokerages leveraged past the point of viability, and with portfolios of worthless assets, shuffling about their business until being told that they’d actually been dead for years.

A news media that let a war get sold to the public on provably false pretenses while producing the same millions of column inches and hours of talking heads it always had. Reading or watching it, you’d hardly know they missed anything.

A political system that turned against itself. A justice department actively trying to influence elections. A disaster agency designed to prove, at high human cost, its own inadequacy. A Congress content to argue on the margins with constitutional principles at stake. It seemed like it was still mostly doing what it always did while inside it was rotting.

Maybe the zeitgeist was trying to warn us.

If the early and mid- part of this decade belonged to the zombie, what does it mean that now the monster of the moment is the vampire? (Twilight, True Blood, The Vampire Diaries…) I’m not sure, but I suspect things are about to get mean.

(And I’d keep a close eye on one’s precious bodily fluids, just in case.)

What Zombies Can Tell Us about the Aughts