White Noise: News and Happenings from Inside the Media Bubble
We’ve heard that being a new parent is exhausting, but last night put it to the proof. Britney Spears’ “comeback” performance at this week’s MTV Video Music Awards showed the formerly lithe, nimble sex kitten stumbling awkwardly through her routine with all the energy of a stripper’s last dance at the end of a double shift. Watching her lurch about while sucking it in at the same time was a bucket of cold water to any guy who was a teenager in the late ’90s. Whether the product of pills, booze or just plain jet lag (yeah, jet lag, that’s it), rather than relaunching her career, Britney’s listless plodding seems destined to mark yet another milepost in her steady slouching toward walking punchline status. We’ve all heard the expression “no such thing as bad publicity,” but how exactly being mercilessly skewered by Kathy Griffin, Joan Rivers and the usual crew of pop culture remoras on VH1’s “Best Week Ever” for the next month can be seen as a positive is best left to an incredibly talented publicist to explain.
Lapses in editorial judgment
So, Mike Nifong checked into jail last week. As everybody knows, the embattled prosecutor snagged headlines all over the country for his overzealous pursuit of three Duke lacrosse players accused on rape. Unfortunately, Nifong’s not the only prosecutor gone astray. In Jena, La. a prosecutor is seeking convictions for assault and battery and conspiracy against six black high school students accused of beating a white classmate, who received a concussion and bruising. For months before the incident, the school struggled with heightened racial tension that started when white students hung nooses on a tree that had – until the week before – been their sole purview. Later on, another white student pulled a gun on a group of black students. They wrestled the gun away from the student, according to Democracy Now!, and reported the incident to police. They were charged with theft of a firearm and assault. The prosecutor is seeking terms of more than 20 years each for the six Jena teenagers, but the story has been practically ignored by the mainstream media. I, for one, have heard enough about Nifong. I want to know what the hell is happening down in Jena, Louisiana.
Our industry in crisis
Collaboration is the new watchword in journalism as both a cost-cutting measure and a means to circulate important stories more effectively in an era when hometown readers can easily check out the competition by reading online. The parent companies of the Raleigh News & Observer and The Charlotte Observer merged last year and, as Public Editor Ted Vaden explains in the Sunday edition of the N&O, “the two papers have worked to take advantage of the synergies that corporate mergers are intended to produce.” That means N&O reporters handled the court reporting during the demise of former House Speaker Jim Black, while their counterparts from the Observer provided the hometown angle from the fallen lawmaker’s district. One assessment comes from current House Speaker Joe Hackney, who has presumably read a lot of newspapers in his day. “The media has changed in terms of more of it,” he told WUNC radio host Frank Stasio on Aug. 21. “Fewer reporters in Raleigh, strangely…. I can name cities across North Carolina that used to have a Raleigh reporter; now they don’t because of cutbacks. The level of rhetoric is the same, but the information is not as accurate.”
Anyone looking to increase their contact with promiscuous teenage girls – or, at least, middle-aged men pretending to be so – should rejoice in the latest news in social networking. Facebook, heretofore open only to college students, has increased their web presence to include – gasp! – adults, many of whom are embarrassing their teenage kids as we speak. MTV announced plans to start a social networking site of their own, which should attract its share of creepy trawlers. And Playboy magazine also plans to unleash a social networking site called PlayboyU, strictly for college students. “Sorry,” reads a press release, “but high schoolers, old dudes and your Mom can’t join.” Bummer! Last to the party is Rolling Stone, which is building their MySpace clone as we go to press. Its members will, presumably, include people who still read Rolling Stone.