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Saturday, December 19, 2015

Cheap time filler takes over media.

In a way, this is a golden age of publishing and the free press. "Freedom of the press" only meant you were free if you had a press. Now everybody does.  If I want to self-publish a book, I can so that easily at sites like Smashwords.  I can put this blog out there and, in theory, have it read by billions of people. I say "in theory" because I'm not sure my own family even reads it

But it's not a golden age of quality. The same few stories get endlessly repeated, then disappear, seldom to be followed up on.  It's like watching kindergarten soccer, where there's a scrum around the ball around all times, with few kids staying in position.

And, this time of the year, there is a proliferation of "year's best" lists.

Why? 

My theory is “cheap time filler”. Think of a 24 hour news channel, or a newspaper columnist now forced due to cutbacks to turn in more material per week. How to fill it?

A top 10 list doesn’t demand a whole lot of work — just review your own old stories, or Google “top Paraguayan vacation spots” and there you are — editor ready copy.

[I made up “top Paraguayan vacation spots” on a whim. But I did, in fact, Google “top Paraguayan vacation spots”. The second and third search returns were:
The Top 10 Things to Do in Paraguay 2015
The Top 10 Things to Do in Asuncion 2015]

My “cheap time filler” explains a lot about what’s on TV and other media these days. 

Celebrity coverage is cheap to produce. 

Sports opinion shows are cheap to produce (not the rights to the games themselves). 

Bemoaning Donald Trump is cheap to produce. Even getting Donald Trump on your show is cheap, and gets good ratings. 

Covering the latest poll results is cheap to produce. 

Having two “experts” yell over the top of each other is cheap to produce.

Investigative journalism? Coverage of foreign countries? Not so cheap.

Personally, the only time I made a “top 10” list is when I wrote my list of accomplishments for my annual personnel reviews, and only then because it was required. Do people who aren’t in the media actually make such lists?