04 Sep 11 Baby Animals Cuter Than LIBOR
It was a weird time for all of us.
So there’s this little story going around that hasn’t gotten a ton of press attention, but I think it’s worth noting that evidently, according to key officials with first-hand knowledge of the situation, and verified by non-partisan fact checkers at the independent Foundation for the Preservation of American Opportunity, it seems that ALL OF THE LARGE BANKS HAVE BEEN SYSTEMATICALLY DEFRAUDING THE WORLD FOR OVER 20 YEARS.
In other semi-reported news, they landed a frickin spaceship on the frickin surface of Mars!
You might have missed these minor stories last month during the 24-hour-live coverage of Kristen Stewart’s (interspecies?) infidelity or the six-station simulcast of “America Humiliates Poorer Nations: the Miniseries.” So allow me to summarize the key takeaways:
1. Big things are shaping the future of our world — some good, mostly bad.
2. It’s boring, and nobody cares.
Now I’m not a fancy big-city Poobah. I’m not a policy maker. Hell, I’m not even a Kaplan. But it seems to me that the news media (which we, professional communicators, must abide) is pretty clearly to blame for much of our collective ignorance.
Yes, your fears are well-founded. This is indeed another one of my long-winded anti-media screeds. How many of these am I allowed to do per month?
Let’s take Buzzfeed for example.
BuzzFeed gets page views the way Malcolm X gets social change and Scott Baio gets one-night-stands. They don’t even publish articles; they publish memes.
For the unfamiliar: Memes are the worst thing that’s happened to society since drunken Scott Baio bar crawls. They’re goofy, pleasant, easily digestible — basically the news equivalent of marshmallow fluff.
But, see, the news isn’t supposed to be a light, tasty treat. It’s supposed to be tough, bitter-tasting, and hard to swallow — like one of those horse-pill multivitamins.
You don’t read or watch the news because it’s fun — you do it because it’s good for you, because it’s your civic duty, because it’s your best connection to the realities of the world, which — generally speaking — suck big-time.
The truly amazing part is that this transition happened very quickly.
Just a couple of years ago, the news was all about fear mongering. Mass shootings, terrorism, kidnappings, and other local atrocities that scare the pants off you because one of your household cleaners is silently killing your baby and we’ll tell you which one at 11.
Nobody ever enjoyed this stuff, but we were glued to it, and we didn’t have any other choices. Now, thanks to the Internet, we do have choices. And most of the time, we’re choosing kittens in hats.
Over the past year, Politico’s Ben Smith, Roll Call’s John Stanton, and Metro Weekly’s Chis Geidner all hitched their wagons to BuzzFeed. Yes, BuzzFeed. These were real political reporters, mind you, covering LIBOR and NASA budget cuts, and… well… news!
Not to be outdone, the New York Times is joining forces with BuzzFeed for political convention coverage this year. The New York friggin Times.
And if you’re still trying to wrap your head around this, you could do worse than to check out a telling interview with Washingtonian, in which Stanton offers a bit of insight into his decision making:
“I am a third-generation newspaperman,” Stanton says. “The idea that there would be no more hard copy with ink is insane! But if nobody’s reading it, what’s the point?”
He also adds:
“News is not [BuzzFeed’s] bread and butter, but it’s a way to get news out to people who wouldn’t see it.”
In other words, the American public’s “news muscle” has atrophied, and we need to be very gentle with it, lest we scare them away from anything even remotely resembling news.
I think Stanton’s is a self-fulfilling prophecy — and a really damaging one.
You know that old saying about how you’ll never go broke appealing to the lowest common denominator?
Well it’s Scott Baio, and he’s a meme in waiting.