The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Old School in the New Media: Crime, Scandal & Alyssa Milano Lesbian Kiss

Posted on | October 25, 2010 | 10 Comments

“When I was a kid reporter at the LA Times in the 1960s, some of the veteran photographers and reporters regaled me with tales of how they used to sit in their cars with motors running, radios tuned to the police band, so they could be first on the scene of a gangland slaying or a spouse-stabbing, the bloodier the better. . . .
“There was serious stuff in the papers, too, like Korea and the Cold War and polio vaccine, but much of that was available to everyone and left to the wires to report. The premium, then as now, was on speed.”

Paul Steiger, Ralph McGill Lecture, Henry Grady School of Journalism, University of Georgia

Thanks to Jack Lail for that useful lecture in a post titled, “Free enterprise just hasn’t been good for journalism.” And I’m afraid the comment by Professor Glenn Reynolds — “Maybe this explains their attitude toward capitalism” — gets the causation exactly backwards.

It is the anti-capitalist attitude that causes the failure of journalism, and not the other way around.

How many journalists have I worked with since 1986 who are no longer working as journalists? Short answer: Lots. Probably even most of them.

Some of them just found other lines of work where they could make more money. Some of them were laid off, victims of mismanaged news organizations. But a lot of them drifted out of an increasingly competitive news environment because they never really had that fire-in-the-belly appetite for competition.

Despite my natural-born laziness, I always understood that news is a business. The newsroom staff is an expense. The revenue comes from advertisers who want the attention of readers. Therefore:

  • The journalist’s value to his employer is directly connected to his contribution to the business of attracting readers.
  • The story is more important than the writer, because the writer is less important than the reader.
  • Advertising will follow the reader.
  • Attracting and satisfying the reader — as the ultimate consumer of the product — is the whole business of journalism.

The stuck-up snobbery of those who don’t appreciate these basic facts of the news business, who feel entitled to a living as a professional journalist because they imagine themselves to be pursuing a calling more noble than the pursuit of profit — well, to hell with all that.

Let ’em join the Peace Corps, if they think journalism is some kind of philanthropic endeavor.

Did you know that this video clip of Alyssa Milano in a lesbian kissing scene has had 1.6 million views?

And do you realize that the headline of this post, merely because it includes the phrase “Alyssa Milano lesbian kiss,” will generate a lot more hits than if I’d called it, “Reflections on Journalism in the 21st Century”?

If you don’t realize that, I sure do.

Paying customers don’t want to read a bunch of self-important “thoughtful” crap. They like stories about bloody murder, corrupt politicians and celebrity sex scandals.

“Nothing catches an editor’s eye like a good rape.”
Hunter S. Thompson, Hell’s Angels

Some people get think-tank sinecures to write navel-gazing essays (“Herewith, a brief primer . . “), which is nice work if you can get it. Me? I’m out here hustling in the private sector.

By the way, I’m about ready to embark on my final road trip of the 2010 campaign season, and your contributions to the Shoe Leather Fund are most sincerely solicited. Because the four-legged terrorist destroyed my KIA Optima, I’ll have to rent a car ($75 a day x 7 days = $525), and my expected final destination is Florida, where I hope to cover the victories of Marco Rubio and Allen West.

It’s 1,118 miles to Miami, a 2,236-mile round trip which, at 20 cents a mile, works out to about $447. I’ll try to crash on friends’ sofas as often as possible, but if you add in a few nights in cheap motels ($100 a night), plus two packs of cigarettes a day (2 x $5 = $10), six cups of coffee a day (6 x $1.50 = $9), and the usual cheeseburger-and-fries diet (7 days x 2 meals/day x $5 = $70), it’s hard to see how the expenses for the trip will come to less than $1,500 and might be more like $2,000.

In the past year or so, you’ve sent me to Kentucky, New York, Massachusetts, Alabama, California, Nevada, Arizona, New Orleans, Pennsylvania and Alaska. Obviously, you believe you’re getting your money’s worth. So getting 100 readers to give $20 — or 40 readers to give $50 — to raise $2,000 for a road trip to Miami ought to be a piece of cake.

This is pure, unapologetic, capitalist journalism. I’m hitting the road to cover politics, but if I run across any mass murders or nude celebrities along the way, I’ll give you every gory, scandalous detail. 

You have my guarantee on that.


10 Responses to “Old School in the New Media: Crime, Scandal & Alyssa Milano Lesbian Kiss”

  1. rain of lead
    October 25th, 2010 @ 8:57 pm

    as someone famous (gee, can’t remember who.) once said,
    “way to sell it”

  2. Sue
    October 26th, 2010 @ 8:40 pm

    Can I convince you NOT to go to Miami but rather stick around in Orlando where you can celebrate the glorious retirement of the honorable Alan Grayson?

    The Orlando Tea Party has big, beautiful plans that evening.

    And besides, it’s four hours less driving.

    But if you must go to Latin America, USA, make a pit stop in O-do. It would be an honor. Unlike Jacobsen, I won’t complain about the loss of beer and pizza.