IF NEWSPAPER EDITOR Horace Greeley were around today, his famed advice to a cub reporter probably would have been, “Go blog, young man.”
Newspapers have become strangely enamored with Web logs, a.k.a. blogs, recently adopting an “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” mentality. Examples range from ink-stained curmudgeons blogging away at the TV Critics Assn.’s semiannual gathering in Beverly Hills to the Los Angeles Times’ revamped, Internet-oriented Sunday op-ed section. No one, in fact, is immune from high-tech pandering, including National Public Radio’s “Talk of the Nation” program, which solicited emails last week containing listeners’ TV series suggestions in a misguided attempt to seem cool.
Alas, these demographically motivated incursions by conservative old media into the online realm almost invariably reek of desperation, much like an aging hipster uncomfortably trying to squeeze into jeans from the young men’s dept.
The difficulty with blogging from events like press tour or the network upfronts isn’t the level of blather about stars and parties. It’s that if blogs are supposed to provide a free-wheeling, unfiltered glimpse into journalists’ psyches, newspaper-sanctioned versions are hard-pressed to honestly convey the mind’s tendency to stray faced with the tedium of wall-to-wall press conferences.
The more pertinent problem, however, is whether anyone in charge has a clear sense for whom such excruciating detail is intended. Because so far, anyway, traditional media’s adventures in the blogosphere apparently give scant thought to how their newfangled toy benefits consumers, confusing extra volume with legitimate value.
FRANKLY, I do this for a living and can’t imagine mustering the strength to wade through this murky stream of TV criticism for the few nuggets it might yield. Yet recognizing the practice’s inevitability, before dismissing it I felt compelled to at least try assembling an unexpurgated view of what passes through my head during these press tour Q&A sessions, and the results weren’t pretty:
9:12 a.m.: Dear God, please say the network execs aren’t going to run down their entire scheduling strategy again.
9:17: Interesting Wall Street Journal editorial. I had no idea that President Bush had cured polio.
9:21: They’re only up to Wednesday night? What is this, a congressional filibuster?
9:25: What’s that guy’s name again? And was he that bald six months ago?
9:32: Whoa, did the head of the entertainment division just publicly accept blame for a mistake? He must have. The PR folks are doing the Lambada in their chairs.
9:47: Mental note: Investigate Karl Rove’s role in determining the “Dancing With the Stars” winner. Geez, get a life, people.
10:20: That actress on stage right now — the third lead or something — is really cute. Maybe I should go to the All-Star Party. Seriously, who am I kidding? If this were a WB series I’d be playing her dad.
10:34: Tom Cruise and I are the same age. I should call my sister and thank her for never volunteering to handle my publicity.
11:09: Wow, that’s the single dumbest question I’ve ever heard at one of these things. “Who would you rather be, Angus, the Charlie character or the Alan character?” Why not just ask the kid who would win in a fight between Jesus and Superman?
11:18: I’d really like a doughnut, but it’s too close to lunch.
11:29: OK, I’m bored. Would anyone notice if I began playing BrickBreaker on my Blackberry? Say that three times fast. Heh heh heh.
11:42: Unbelievable. That was dumber than the previous question.
11:47: How does the dog keep getting in the bathroom and unraveling the toilet paper? I swear, that bitch is part Houdini.
11:52: Let’s make it official: “The Island” is my last Michael Bay movie.
11:55: Must begin working through the East stack of preview DVDs and tapes. That way, I can move the West stack off the coffee table and onto the fireplace.
12:01 p.m.: Is it worth hanging around just for lunch? If so, I need to avoid that publicist who keeps harassing me about reviewing those gardening documentaries. I’d sooner watch all 12 hours of “Into the West.” Maybe I could grab a drive-thru burger. I have that dollar-off coupon.
12:05: That does it, I’m out of here, and the burger wins. Besides, if newspapers are really lumbering toward the elephant burial ground, I’d rather not attend my own funeral on a rubber-chicken lunch.