Friday, August 28, 2009

Jon and Kate Plus 8 Times 25 Years of Therapy

Reports of Jon Gosselin potentially co-starring in a new reality show were swirling last week. The would-be-trainwreck, Divorced Dads Club, would feature a group of famous divorced fathers and how they are coping with (read: giddily embracing) their return to the single life.

One E! Online headline read “Does the World Need Another Jon Gosselin Reality Show?”...Come on, people, we all know it didn't even need one!! Luckily, Gosselin will proooobably not be part of the show, if the world should ever be unfortunate enough to be subjected to it. The brass over at cable network TLC would have to approve his inclusion in the show, something insiders apparently think is not likely.

I only watched one episode of Jon & Kate Plus 8 before the inevitable marital implosion became apparent to the outside world. If I remember correctly, I did so out of sheer boredom, with a twist of procrastination. I needed to clean my apartment and had done just about everything else I could possibly do in lieu of springing the Pine Sol from its quiet, slightly dusty abode under my kitchen sink.

A freelance project I had been working on was complete, I was up to date on all of my email correspondence, I had even sewn a long-lost button back on a sweater. Both sweater and button had been thrown aside months prior to patiently await their reunion. Jon and Kate were the only hurdles standing between me and a clean apartment. Unfortunately, they won. I didn't want to, but I gave in. I thought, 'a show about eight kids has to be at least a little interesting, even if that interest will be accompanied by exasperation, annoyance, and possibly anger. I was right about the last three things.

I was genuinely overcome with boredom by the end of the well as exasperated, annoyed, and angry. I don't think I could have expressed the boredom in words if I had tried. It was the feeling of not being able to get back the two hours you spent watching a dumb movie, except even though I had only lost a half hour of my life, I felt that pain...exponentially. It was like the show had left a hole in my soul. Of course, I only saw one episode, so maybe there were others that were more interesting.

The episode I saw can be summed up thusly: eight children run around babbling incessantly; they at some point get into some minor trouble; Kate runs around, sporting her insane rooster-inspired hair cut, barking at Jon in a most shrill and obnoxious manner; Jon walks around with his tail between his legs and quiet rage brews.

Now, from what I understand, I might not be the only person who thought the show was super-duper boring before the split. The show only had so-so ratings. I would have loved to be a fly on the wall at various meetings when the execs over at TLC were first hearing about the brouhaha.

I wasn't a fly on the wall, so I don't know exactly what happened. But here's what I think happened: they began foaming at the mouth like rabid beasts. There's really no other explanation for the way they have exploited this sad, dysfunctional, downward spiral of a marriage. I'm pretty sure they saw a show that had been just sitting there taking up space and realized they now had the opportunity to create a world-wide media circus centered around it.

I would just love to know if it ever crossed anyone's mind that maybe, just maybe, they should cut their losses and encourage the family to go away and attempt to quietly put the pieces of their lives back together.

If it were just Jon and Kate, two attention-and-money-whores...I mean...adults, involved it would be one thing. But there are eight kids here, people! That's eight little minds being warped by this weird, constant attention they are getting, for no good reason other than they are part of a large set of multiples. These are eight kids who will grow into young adults and be able to watch a video chronicle of the erosion of their parents' marriage...and know that a whole slew of twisted Americans (yours truly included) watched it too.

Yeah, I know, I know, money whores is a little strong. But if they wanted a good life for their kids, there are tons of other ways they could have made money on their story without plastering it all over the world (and airing their dirty laundry) with their insipid reality show. They could still do speaking engagements, they could still write books, they could create a website and blog. None of those things, even cumulatively, would have put their kids in the middle of such a frenzy. They would probably not be household names and be making 3 million dollars a year combined, but their kids might actually have a fighting chance of turning out normal. Now, not so much.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Do small regionals have the answers?

So my morning ritual was not so depressing yesterday!

Editor & Publisher published the results of its ninth annual "10 That Do It Right" feature, and several regional newspapers across the country are utilizing innovative techniques that should have the national papers sitting up and taking notice (if they know what is good for them). The techniques are simple but brilliant. Best of all, they are highly transferrable. Here's a brief
round-up of some of the smarty-pants ideas helping smaller papers to thrive.

The Las Vegas Sun has slimmed down and become a "section" inside its joint-operating-agreement partner, the Las Vegas Review-Journal. The small but mighty eight page insert has contently returned to true the roots of journalism. And guess what? People are reading it! Why? Because it is full of meaty investigative journalism. What's that, you say? It's what's you've been

Columnists have become the driving force at the Sioux City Journal in Iowa. The newsroom of 32 has focused on creating "something to talk about" among its print and online readers. Sure, their target audience is a small regional circulation, but with everything there is to talk about in the world, columnists are missing the boat at many larger publications. Stir the pot, columnists, stir the pot!

Briefing in Dallas, Texas has found its target audience, busy suburban moms, and they are delivering exactly what these women want. Briefing is a smaller, zippier version of The Dallas Morning News. It's so popular that the paper's acceptance rate is growing and advertisers are lining up to appear in the trim Wednesday through Saturday publication.

Freedom of information is not a privelege in America, it's a right. And the Post-Star in Glens Falls, New York is diligently reminding its readers about this fact every day. Editorials and blogs stress that it is not just Washington insiders and journalists who are entitled to transparency in government.

Everyone is talking about community building these days. This usually amounts to a fan page on Facebook for many publications still trying to harness the power of social media. The East Bay Express in Emeryville, California is actually building a strong community, dare I say, the old fashioned way. Last Christmas editors appealed to readers to pledge to spend at least $100 right in their community to stimulate their local community. The idea caught on and other papers jumped on board. The paper now has several others community-based ideas in the hopper.

How do newspapers of all sizes bring their readership back again and again? Allow them direct access to controversy, sit back and watch! The Star Tribue in Minneapolis posted all disputed ballots in the U.S. Senate race between Norm Coleman (R) and Al Franken (D) on their website. An important result was that the public scrutiny made the campaigns drop several of the frivolous disputes. And the readership came very close to the actual numbers that decided the race. Hurrah for the masses!

The St. Petersburg Times is also making the most of the web to keep their readers interested, and keep politicians (somewhat) honest. The newspaper analyzed hundreds of promises made during the 2008 presidential campaign. And they didn't stop on Election Day. The Times continues its fact-checking on Obama's administration and claims made by both the right and the left.

When it comes to paving the road for the future of newspapers and journalism, I personally think the key is reaching out to youth. Dave Eggers agrees with me (see the first post on this blog). So does the Daily Independent in Ridgecrest, California. The daily not only offers internships, with serious potential of one day becoming a staffer, but also helps kids with their high school papers which it prints at cost.