Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Death by blandness

Michael Wolfe's analysis of newspapers in Vanity Fair is typically shallow, but he has a vicious touch that makes reading him nearly irresistable. For instance, consider the way he mentions Gannett's long, unsuccessful search for a star CEO and concludes that they were "forced to settle for, in the description of one newspaper insider I know, 'Dennis FitzSimons's idiot brother.' "

Indeed, one of the few points he makes that seems unassailably true to me is the assertion that blandness has become the chief disease of modern American newspapers. Quoth he:

In this public-utility age of newspapers, the institutional blandness which resulted — reporters themselves, once clever and disreputable, became something like public-service employees, seeing themselves with the beleaguered virtue of schoolteachers — helped turn newspapers into a medium for old people (newspapers are for people who remember newspapers). In some sense, newspapers became the inverse of media: designed not to be noticed.

If we're gonna die, let's go down swinging.
–Howard Weaver

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