Friday, January 07, 2005

Tabloid TV news: We're Not Gonna Take It ...Anymore!

The problem: Tabloid fodder crowding out legitimate news stories.

We've seen it again and again, from Homicides of the Rich and Famous to the more mudane celebrity gossip. The endless TV news cycle of accusation, mindless reporting of irrelevant minutiae (We interrupt this program to bring you a Special News Bulletin...! It appears that Scott Peterson's defense team is eating lunch at Wendy's. We are taking you there Live..."), commentary, analysis and speculation just because editors think we'd rather hear about accused celebrities all day rather than events that impact the general public. And now Jeff Jarvis (via InstaPundit) predicts that it's about to begin again:

"Just as we get rid of Scott Peterson -- well, once Matt Lauer stops airing his daily Amber Frey shows -- we will get the Michael Jackson trial and it will take over all available media, knocking the dead in the Indian Ocean off the front page and the lead story on the evening news. It will be all-Jacko-all-the-time and I, for one, am dreading it."

This presents a dilemma for some of us: those of us who follow the news but don't consider the accusations against the Gloved One news. Some of us even have young kids around as we watch the news whom we don't want exposed to All Jacko All the Time. ("Daddy, what's child molestation?") Beyond all that, the idea of Jacko distracting the public from the tsunami aftermath and what still needs to be done is obscene.

The solution: The blogosphere leads a general Viewer Strike!

Here's what I propose. If Jarvis' prediction comes true (although the chance of it happening is only 99.9998%) then the news editors who subject us to it are stormed by a mighty horde of bloggers who email, phone and/or write to voice their displeasure and deliver this threat: If you spend more than 10 minutes within a 24 hour period on Michael Jackson, I will not watch your network for three days. These three day periods are renewable until you get the message. This message, if sent by one person, is easily ignored. If sent by a million, it would be insanity for a network to ignore it.

We've seen CBS News and Dan Rather taken down by the Pajama Army. That is, the blogosphere successfully defended against journalistic slander of a presidential candidate in the run-up to an election. This proposal is to take the blogosphere on the offensive: to make a positive change in the value of TV news by taking a stand against mindless sensationalism.

Possible hurdles:

One possible reason that this won't work, since nobody reads this blog is that nobody sees my suggestion and nobody else thinks of it or a better plan.

Another possible reason, even if the blogosphere becomes aware of the plan, is apathy. If bloggers leave the email protests to other bloggers, the impact will be lessened. If even a half-million bloggers and blog readers made the effort, we will have taken the blogosphere's relationship to mainstream media to the next level.

A third possible hindrance is that a considerable number of bloggers actually want All Jacko All the Time. I'd rather not think about the possibility.

Background

Two things prompted this idea. The first was my long-standing frustration with legitimate news stories being neglected whenever there is a celebrity crime. The other factor was this article and discussion at the Belmont Club in which Wretchard likened the blogosphere to a living, growing neural network with self-awareness. In terms of the blogosphere's potential (and especially as it becomes agumented by things like audio and video) we are now only scratching the surface, as the producer-consumer paradigm of news and information becomes outdated.

In the past, we put up with the tabloidization of network news because we had no say. Now we do. Information travels the blogosphere at light speed, from and to every part of the globe. It remains to be seen what abilities the blogosphere has for decision and action. My modest proposal might prove an interesting experiment.

PS-- Now why did I think of a title for this post that invokes a crazy-looking guy in makeup who was famous in the 80s?