News is news
look at the tigers, aren't they cute?
It's a funny thing.
You post up a story like the runaway bride and within the 80 comments, people are bitching that it's up. Do we get 80 comments on Iraq? No. Army recruiting? No. The British election? No.
I have posted this three times and the average count was around 60 comments, double of what a post usually gets. Double.
So when we read this criticism, Jen and I laugh. People may be interested in army recruiting, but not 80 comments worth. The story about recruiting a mental patient should have a hundred comments. But it won't. Because people process it and move on.
Two things happen when one of these stories come up.
One, readers have a lot of comments.
Two, some readers bitch about why we aren't discussing more important things. Yet, if you scroll down, there are important, serious stories for your perusal. Yet, when you post up on Michael Jackson or this story, people have a ton of things to say. They are engaged, even to the point of decrying the story 30 comments down. I don't get those kind of comments about Iraqi politics.
Now, if you found out, in the course of running a blog, that some stories, despite the gnashing and wailing, drew people in, wouldn't it be the height of idiocy to ignore it, in search of more "important" stories?
That's one of the problem with people on the left. After losing yet another election, they act outraged that people care about murders and runaway brides. They keep hoping for some kind of revolution where serious news matter. Have you ever seen English newspapers? You have tabloids and serious papers. But you don't hear people whining about it.
The reason I write about these things is for a couple of reasons. Culturally, I realize I come from a different place than many of the readers. Because in America, we don't discuss family life, marriage and things except in sociological terms. I realize that black people talk to black people about these things and white people talk to everyone as if their ideas are the only valuable ones.
So when I express an opinion about some of these issues, it's probably a viewpoint people haven't heard and they are likely to disagree with, toss in an insult and be confounded. Which is fun.
But I have two really strong reasons for picking the runaway bride story. Now, when Bill O'Reilly was caught harassing a coworker, not one person complained about it being posted up, they loved it. They ate it up. Why? Because O'Reilly is a prick. Now, you have the same kind of circus going on, but people are sick of it, they don't want to hear it, while reading every word.
Now, I found the whole situation ridiculous. We can guess if he's gay, an idiot or unlucky, but the confluence of money and sex and morality makes for a lot of interesting conversation.
There is another, far more important reason these stories go up and will continue to go up. But let me start with a little tale.
The folks are Romenesko were debating why they covered Krispy Kreme openings a couple of years back. They complained that it was just free advertising for the company. Now, while these folks had their noses up in the air, you had hour's long wait for these donuts as they hit new markets in the Northeast and West. The snobs missed the point that this was news. This company had a product which people were willing to wait in the early morning for. If 50 people line up for a fucking donut, asking why is a good start. You cover what happens, not what you think should happen, and goddamnit, if people stand in line at 5:30 to get hot dounts, you should find out why, even if it is a free ad.
If CNN basically covers this story all Saturday, it's news. It's not a debate. It is news, and malaria isn't. Instead of wishing it wasn't news, we need to subvert it. We need to discuss it in wider terms, class, race, sex. We need to bring depth to the debate. I mean this story gets weirder by the day. But if you don't engage it, bring different perspectives to it, the media gets away clean again. When people say "you don't cover this story" people think "liberal whiner". If they want to talk about runaway brides, let's talk about runaway brides, but intelligently, questioning the sex roles of men and women and the economic cost and pressure in a large wedding. There is fertile ground for smart people, but they have to seize the target and change the debate.
One of the great tricks of conservative pundits was to talk about ANY topic. No matter what it was, they had an opinion, got face time and then book deals. They saw this as fertile ground to extend the debate. We have to engage these issues and bring new perspectives on them.
American news has been the same for about a century. You don't think people were sitting around in 1957 discussing the Bandung Conference over Elvis? Hell, one of the biggest news stories of the 19th Century was the shootout at the OK Corral. The following murder trials were news and spawned a cottage industry of books and dime novels. Only with the advent of the movies were the Earps rehabilitated. And when the James gang was gunned down in Northfield, Minnesota, a lot of Union vets were happy to have them wind up that way.
There's a sort of snobishness about news on the left. I don't watch TV, I only read the Guardian. Give me a fucking break. Most people think Angel comes after Guardian and when you don't watch TV, you might as well say pinko hippie. If you want to change minds, you have to speak their language and it's in things people care about.
If you don't have an opinion on the latest circus, your opinion on more serious matters will not count. You don't have to spend every day repeating Eonline, but you have to understand the culture, even the vulgar parts, to change it. If you do not engage the debate at hand, you will become irrelevant. Even if the debate is not a big deal in the end. Walking away, as we did so many times before, is no longer an option.
posted by Steve @ 12:42:00 AM