Dirty Laundry II

Carl Hiaasen stirred up some of that Florida-fried bile that makes him great in his Sunday column in the Miami Herald. And in so doing sums up what has got the Pulp more doomsdayish about the State of Journalism than anything else. But I'm gonna let him do the talking here: ---------------------------------- ... this is the new New Journalism, which is steered by a core belief that people would rather be smothered by seedy gossip about dead ex-Playmate junkies than be bothered with the details of North Korea's nuclear program.

Like the Don Henley song says, crap is king. We are merely here to serve.

If you Googled Anna Nicole's name last week, you got 28.8 million hits -- 10 times more than that of Condoleezza Rice, who is only the U.S. secretary of state.

Debate all you wish about whether the public's interest is fueling the Anna Nicole overkill, or the overkill is inflating the public's interest. The fact is, lots of people are hungry for the story -- and not because they care one bit about this poor woman, or her child.

It's necro-

tainment, that's all. The five-car pileup on the interstate. The stunt plane crashing at the air show. The train derailment, caught on tape. --------------------------------------------------------

Hiaasen concludes:

"But this is a new dawn for modern journalism. The smelly stuff that was once left to the capable vultures at the Star and The Enquirer is now front-page fodder in your hometown paper, and the lead story on the six o'clock news.

Dead or alive, celebrities rule.

... Don't make the mistake of dismissing the Smith story as an anomaly; it's a media watershed. If the death of a hapless, doped-up ex-model can knock two wars out of the headlines, there's no end to the squalid possibilities.

We have seen the future, and it's in the gutter."

Hiaasen may be overstating the "watershed" aspect a bit, but I don't think one can understate the way in which the Internet is accelerating the race to the bottom. It's all about visits and views on the web and mainstream news organizations are falling all over themselves to post junk celebrity gossip to pump up their pages. And, as I've said in the past, there's nothing patently wrong with this ... so long as it remains balanced. You can't let the candy take over the meal or we're all in trouble. And the Internet's temptations are going to corrupt a lot of news directors in the coming years. Don't let it happen to you.

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