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The Seven Most Tiresome Media Trends of 2013

Media feuds, Twitter tirades, newspaper layoffs just some of trends that deserve a rest in 2014

In preparing to ring in the new year, let’s bid a not-so-fond farewell to seven media trends that remained inordinately prominent – and especially tiresome – during 2013.

Granted, this farewell is, at best, temporary. Media folk are, after all, creatures of habit. Yet while it would be naïve to hope any of these irritants can be retired, it would be lovely to see at least some of them reduced in the year ahead:

Foot-in-the-mouth firings. As it turned out, 2013 was an unusually good year for people saying stupid things on TV – or committing social-media suicide via 140-character outbursts on Twitter. Granted, this should have served notice to those who toil in some form of communications that they should actually think before they speak or tweet, but the rapid-response armies of peasants with pitchforks have a way of turning each of these interludes into its own over-saturated, media-scrum monstrosity.

At the very least, it would be nice to see some acknowledgement or recognition of the hypocrisy at work on all sides, as well as the childish nature of “If Martin Bashir had to jump off the Empire State Building, why didn’t [fill in the blank]?” tit for tat.

Cable news feuds. Let’s take it as a given that Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly and Eric Bolling of Fox News Channel don’t see eye to eye on much with Lawrence O’Donnell, Chris Hayes, Ed Schultz and Al Sharpton over at MSNBC. So can we move on? The occasional back and forth and finger-pointing is not only pandering to the base, but at this point just feels plain tired – like a weak rerun of Keith Olbermann jabbing at “Bill-O the Clown” back in 2005. Enough already.

TV-retransmission fight blackouts. For once, one of these things actually wasn’t resolved at the last minute, and Time Warner Cable paid a fairly steep price for depriving its subscribers of CBS and related channels. While networks always want more money, and distributors invariably don’t want to cut into their profits, there’s clearly little to be gained from dropping channels, except perhaps to hasten the day when everyone gets their entertainment via an Internet connection and such skirmishes become obsolete.

Misleadingly cryptic Web headlines. Yes, everyone’s in the click-through business these days, but there’s nevertheless something corrosive about the teasing and often vaguely misleading heads one finds on sites like Huffington Post, such as “You Won’t Believe What Was in This iPod Box” (erasers) or “Which movie star sent Jennifer Lawrence Cristal and flowers?” (Jack Nicholson). (For more answers, there’s always the Twitter feed @HuffPoSpoilers.)

Then again, fool me once, shame on you. Fool me 37 times a day, shame on me.

Political columnists writing about pop culture. It’s a given that the New York Times’ Maureen Dowd feels compelled to pepper her column with references to “Homeland” or “Scandal” or whatever movie she’s seen in the last three weeks. But does everyone else – from Frank Bruni on female heroes to Ross Douthat on “12 Years a Slave” to Jonah Goldberg (and a flock of others) on “Duck Dynasty” – have to start doing it too?

Look, we all know newspapers are trying to reach a slightly younger audience, but that’s a poor excuse for dabbling in something about which most of these columnists (and Bruni is actually one of the rare exceptions) appear to know very little. Besides, you seldom see entertainment journalists poking their noses into their business, except for those weeks when somebody like “Duck Dynasty’s” Phil Robertson goes shooting off his mouth.

Lamenting sequels/reboots/remakes. Yes, the fact that seemingly 80% of what gets ordered these days began life somewhere else speaks to a woeful lack of originality in Hollywood, but given how long this has been going on, we’ve clearly moved into the “So what else is new?” phase of righteous indignation. And just to rehash: The companies that provide most popular entertainment refer to their offerings as “product” for a reason. Or to paraphrase the late Roger Ebert, if Coca-Cola had to pull its soda off the shelves every couple of years, it would simply release new cans filled with sugary water called Coke 2, Coke 3 and so on.

Put another way: On the “Duh” scale, lamenting the number of movies with members of the Avengers in them is a bit like complaining about the traffic in Los Angeles.

Wholesale newspaper layoffs. OK, this one’s self-serving, but let’s get serious: Tribune and a lot of other companies have already tried slashing and burning their way into the digital future. Maybe it’s time to give nurturing the assets a shot for a change? Besides, if that doesn’t work, in a few years time the vultures can forget the death-by-a-thousand-cuts approach and simply fire everybody.

And on that cheery note, Happy New Year!

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