Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Beware! It's year in review time

As if it's not bad enough that pretty much every "traditional" media outlet has devolved into either opinion outlets masked as "fact checking" public-services or inane providers of "lists" that (for the most part) are nothing more than the writers personal feelings in journo form we've now hit that time of year where year in review pieces are going to become all the rage.

Already the Texas Tribune has assaulted us with four (4) examples of the genre (which, amazingly, are nothing more than silly lists with a healthy dash of the writer's opinion thrown in for good measure) focusing on education, energy, the environment & transportation, news apps, interactive and something called "visualizations" and a handy-dandy video mix-tape where, presumably, the Trib is trying to burnish their hipster cred by seamlessly integrating the mix-cassette-tape trend of the 80's with their Trib Talk (or whatever it's called) video interviews.  You just know that the idea for this was dreamed up over a meeting in which everyone was sipping on Starbucks and admiring their trendy eye-wear.

Soon the national media will step into the void and provide us with "The Top Stories of 2012" based on.....

Exactly. Based on nothing more than some group's opinion of what the top stories were, with a few laughers thrown in for good measure. The idea that they want to put in your mind is a group of dedicated reporters huddled in a conference room pouring over the big news makers for the previous year providing you with a time-capsule-like retrospective of the year that was.  The reality is a group of interns going back and looking at page-hits and facebook likes working over the holiday while the big-hitters sip egg-nog.  Not in all cases, sure. I'm sure that the reporters at the Tribune either did the page-hit counting or selected the stories themselves,  but do you really think David Gregory and Diane Sawyer do?

Even worse is the disturbing trend of "best of" blog posts compiled by amateur bloggers where they self-select their "best" posts and regurgitate them in list form. My advice, avoid these at all costs.  Choose instead to read substantive stories involving hard-hitting investigative journalism.  Yes, this probably means that your media soak time is going to be greatly reduced but at least you'll have more time to spend with real people, in real life.

The important lesson here is one we often forget:  The media is a for profit enterprise that's ultimately reliant on the customer, just as any other going concern.  We tend to let the media tell us that they're performing a public service and should be treated differently than other companies from which we buy goods and services.  That could not be further from the truth.  In order to survive the media needs to provide content that's accurate, meaningful and presented in a professional manner.  By choosing to click on listicles (h/t Kevin for the name) and recycled end-of-year round-ups we're letting them off the hook.

By way of end-of-year Holiday tip then I advise you to limit your news media reading only to that news which is real news.  What this means is that you should have a lot more time to spend out in the real world, with real people doing real things.  The alternative is that you look up in February and wondering what that dead tree with all of the baubles hanging off of it is doing in your living room.

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