Reporting With Popcorn

It's an annual Academy Awards ritual; after watching the overhyped event that you sense is dictated by some nameless eminence grise in a backroom (perhaps an inscrutable wheelchair-bound dwarf) you get the morning coverage regurgitating it in listless fashion with nothing new or remotely interesting to add at all.

And so goes it this morning in the Miami Herald and Sun-Sentinel. Don't take this as a knock on Rene Rodriguez and Phoebe Flowers, who provided the brunt of coverage for the two newspapers, relatively. It's just that a reporter sitting in front of a TV and taking notes has little to no chance of bringing forth a memorable piece, unless the reporter is, say, Thomas Pynchon. Because that's what you get these days in the Sentinel and Herald, reporters writing off the TV. So neither Rodriguez's story nor Flowers' report brought anything new to the table. It's classic morning letdown material (the single two-word comment under Flowers' story -- "Who cares?" -- says it all).

Tom Jicha's armchair effort made a bit more sense -- he critiqued the show, which he found "slow as a

cement truck on a drag strip." I generally agreed with his assessment of both the show, host Ellen Degeneres (easily the best part), and the Gore lovefest and incessant and self-congratulatory message on global warming that almost made me want to buy a Hummer and vote Republican myself. But it was still far from vibrant coverage.

It makes all the sense in the world in these instances to outsource the stories, as did the Palm Beach Post. But the Associated Press story it published might as well have been written by a TV watcher as well. It brought nothing new to the table. (Yes, it was a bland, uninspired, by-the-numbers AP story -- who could have possibly seen that coming?) Other than that, we have Leslie Gray Streeter's bloggings, which run as long and tedious as the event itself, along with chatter from her friends and family in the comments. I have to say though that Streeter's ramblings are more interesting than the lead stories in the three dailies. It's a low bar, but hey, she got over it.

So what could the newspapers have done to give good coverage? Well, sending a reporter to Los Angeles for the event would be a waste of money. Forget that. Better that they steal (or in the Sentinel's case synergize) the LA Times coverage. This is their baby. The Times' lead story, by John Horn, starts with some behind-the-scenes insight into how Martin Scorcese and company demurely campaigned the Academy right up to the walk down the red carpet. Then Horn tells the back story of Scorcese's wranglings with the Oscar folks.

You know, the stuff we didn't just see on the TV screen. Imagine that.

Covering the Oscars is a nightmare for dailies far away from Hollywood.

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