April 21, 2009

"Smug East Coast upper-middle-class metropolitan condescension"

A symptom ...or a root cause? - Mark Steyn - The Corner on National Review Online:

...It occurs to me that the best chance of saving the US newspaper industry would be if The New York Times collapsed. America's stultifying monodailies are far more homogeneous than almost any other English-speaking media culture. A big part of this is the Times, and the horrible conformity it begets. The Times is the template for the entire industry: Its ethos dominates the journalism schools; it's the model for a zillion other mini-me wannabe-Timeses across the continent, even though smug East Coast upper-middle-class metropolitan condescension would hardly seem an obvious winner for second-tier cities and rural districts. Its columns and features are reprinted coast to coast. Its priorities determine the agenda of the three nightly network newscasts, also (not coincidentally) flailing badly. The net result of the industry's craven abasement before the Times is that American newspapering is dead as dead can be - and certainly far deader than its cousins in Britain, Australia, India, or even Canada.

If the Times closed, what would the mainstream media left behind do? Why, they would have to think for themselves. And some of them would still die. But some of them might get ...lively, and iconoclastic, and one day even ...readable. Not all of them: There would still be plenty of near parodic thumbsucking pomposity for those whose bag that is. But there would be other kinds of papers, too. As the J-school bores say (but rarely do), celebrate diversity!

Just a thought....

I don't imagine it would really help much. Most journalists are second-raters who desperately need to feel superior to somebody. If the NYT vanished they would just ape something else with "New York" in its name. They would rather die than become interested in ordinary people enough to write things that ordinary people would really like. There are such writers, but management would have to go out and hunt for them, and fire a bunch of "journalists"....And that will never happen because newspaper management has the same disease.

Historical note: Until recently only a small percentage of people went to college or university, and there were plenty of smart people who couldn't manage to do so. Usually because they didn't have the dough. (Now we have stupid people going to college, because the seats need to be filled.) Becoming a reporter was a kind of blue-collar thinking-man's job. So there were lots of journalists who didn't feel any need to show they were superior to the swining masses.

There also used to be be some top-notch union leaders who had no other route upwards from the working class. I think the Reuther brothers missed the chance for college because of the depression. And I imagine the literary figure of Jeeves was based on some real-life butlers. Again, because for smart but poor people it might be the only path into "management."

Posted by John Weidner at April 21, 2009 10:16 PM
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