Saturday, May 12, 2007

A stray thought about the NY Times...

This morning as I was paging through the NY Times over an expensive omelette at the Boulderado Hotel in Boulder, CO., I noticed an article on a new VH1 reality show in the Arts Section. Now, I know it's not news that the paper has made a big push to cover more television and rock 'n roll and pop stuff in general. But most of the criticism I've heard voiced about this has been about what it means the paper is NOT covering - theatre, more serious or unusual films, dance, orchestral stuff, etc. Even more ire has been leveled at Isherwood for his troublesome reviews of new theatre work.

But the question that struck me was - Do the people running the NY Times really think that by covering "Flavor of Love Girls: Charm School Starring Mo' Nique" people are going to think that the paper's suddenly "with it" and worth a $1 every morning?

I once thought the paper was worth that and more when the Book Review under Anatole Broyard published a weekly essay on some interesting subject regarding trends in criticism, culture and letters and Mel Gussow's name was still appearing regularly in the paper. But seeing well-written, well-thought out articles about the latest Flavor Flav show on what was once the music channel for people slightly too old for MTV, it makes me think the paper's too expensive to even considering for packing material.

I also wondered if the author of the article, Virginia Heffernan - who I'm sure is very smart - was told to write the article or if she thought, "DANG! THAT SHOW NEEDS TO BE COVERED IT"S SO DARN IMPORTANT!!!"

Of course, even if she didn't think that, certianly, someone at the paper did.


And why do I need an AO Scott reveiw of Spiderman III or The Dukes of Hazzard or Paris Hilton's House of Wax?

Again, I have to believe that someone wants to show how "with it" the paper is to people who currently are getting more of their news from other sources.

(I have similar questions about the "Rock Show Reviews" that they occasionally run. Why does the NY Times review an Oasis concert? Who cares? Especially when concert tours usually mean the performers are in town only for a day or two and most likely the article is running AFTER they've left town?)

Now, I'm not saying that an occasional article on pop culture is a waste of time. Pop cultural trends are important to cover. But couldn't that be done with a more interesting and more in depth article that appears once in a while as opposed to making a "beat" of television shows that really aren't worthwhile?

My guess is that despite all the write ups of American Idol and The Apprentice, the papers circulation is continuing to go down and, worse, the number of advertisers dumping $$ into the paper is continuing to shrink.

And the kids who the paper hopes to win back to newsprint probably look at those articles the way I used to look at my parents when they used the word "cool". Simultaneously, people like me, who once turned to this self-proclaimed "artibiter of taste", turn away from it because it is less and less useful in identifying and exploring interesting ideas in culture at large.

Makes you wonder if there's an underserved market out there just waiting for another paper to voice its interests.

The cast of Flavor Flav's new show, in case yer innarrested.


Fred Wickham said...

Malachy --
Yep. The papers are trying anything to stem the blood. It's pathetic. By the way, I caught a few minutes of Mo'nique's Charm School the other day. It strikes me as just the right vehicle for Mitt Romney.

Dave Tutin said...

We live in a world that is constantly sliding to the middle.

Malachy Walsh said...

Hopefully I'm not sliding with it.