Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Your "COMPOSITE" audience 

Marriage, scandal, sex, "unusual acts done with love motive."
War and heroes and sports and conquests, phony flight suits, cakewalks, millionaires & billionaires, power and privilege and greed and fashion and gossip and innuendo and Hollywood celebrity pop, and Nokia phones, dot.com bubbles, and murder and mayhem, designer drugs, fat ballerinas, shark attacks, freeway car chases, blowjobs, terror, fear..... "primitive emotions".

All bright, snappy, interesting stories delivered up by perky snappy well dressed go-getters. Young clean and athletic. Movers and shakers. The dippity-doo news gigglers @ MSNBCNNFOX.con and elsewhere are on the job 24/7. Yes siree. You betcha'. A fountain of babble gurgled up by a handful of pasty old white conservative geezers and company men, the occasional hunky guy, and the omnipresent gaggle of bubbly wide-eyed TV-News dollybirds who all look and act like they were plucked fresh each moring from the sales floor at Abercrombie and Fitch. Like totally.

Formulated stuff for sure. So where did all this shallow-end pool-splasher journalism come from? And who is buying this collective junk?

Perhaps it's not so much different from dangling cheap costume jewlery in front of a throng of teengae girls or instigating a towel snapping fight in a boys locker room following a wrestling match. Who knows. I don't want to think about it to be honest but I did run across the item below. Let me know if the formula sounds familiar. (bold emphasis mine)

The principles of Hearst Journalism, as set forth in a memorandum for the reporters of the Washington Times.

[--- begin memorandum ---]

The Washington Times should be full of bright, snappy, interesting local stories.

We have a natural tendency to place emphasis on matters which are ponderous, dull and uninteresting. We must resist this tendency.

We must consider the COMPOSITE newspaper reader does not care a hang about tax rates, budgets, insurance, disarmament, naval appropriations, public utilities policies, municipal improvements, or scores of other subjects which may appear to be important.

Newspaper readers are most interested in stories which contain the elements most dominant in the primitive emotions of themselves, namely:

1. Self-Preservation.
2. Love, or Reproduction.
3. Ambition.

Stories containing one of these elements are good; those which contain two of the elements are better; those which contain all three elements form first-class newspaper material.

Self-Preservation - Under this heading come stories of murder, suicide, rescues, accidents, fights, facts as to health, food, liquor, etc.

Love, or Reproduction - This element is contained in stories of marriage, scandal, divorce, human triangles, romances, unusual acts done with love motive, jealousy, sex attraction, etc.

Ambition - The ambition element is contained in articles tending to stimulate the reader to emulate the activity of a character in a story. Sports come under this classification.

The ambition element is aroused, also, by the mystery factor in a story. Mystery forms a challenge to the intelligence, and it thus stimulates the reader to buy further editions to note whether his solution, perhaps unconsciously made, is verified.

For example: The Hall-Mills story contained all three major-interest elements. The killings provided the self-preservation element. The intimacy of the preacher with Mrs. Mills introduced the love element. The mystery of who did the killings, why and how, challenged the intelligence and fired the reader's ambition to solve the problem.

Let us write stories for the COMPOSITE reader.

Let us minimize stories which do not carry the major-interest elements. Let us disregard, or cover perfunctorily, subjects which are merely important, but not interesting.

Let the same principals apply to headline writing, selection and editing of telegraph news and departmental features.

A bonus of $5 will be paid for the best written local story each week, until further notice. The city editor will be the judge.

A bonus of $5 will be paid the copy desk for the best headline of the week. This will be awarded by a vote of the copy editors, the head of the desk to cast two votes if necessary to break a tie.

- Avery C. Marks, Jr.

Sounds familiar doesn't it?
The "memorandum" above, issued to employees of the Washington Times (a Hearst newspaper at the time), was reprinted, 76 years ago, in the December 1927 issue of the American Mercury.

Just goes to show ya....the more things change the more they stay the same. Or history is condemned to repeat itself - or some people never learn. Or whatever the hell it is they say.

"This is a commercial enterprise. This is not PBS. We're not here as a public service. We're here to make money. We sell advertising, and we do it on the premise that people are going to watch. If you don't cover the miners because you want to do a story about a debt crisis in Brazil at the time everybody else is covering the miners, then Citibank calls up and says, 'You know what? We're not renewing the commercial contract.' I mean it's a business." ~ CNN anchor Jack Cafferty, on "American Morning", [Published January 3, 2002 by FAIR's Media Beat

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