Wednesday, April 15, 2009

1001 Airheads

Left over from my post with a notable lack of glückenfreude (see 1000 Readers) is the still broiling issue of why our culture is awash with semi-literate nonsense. It wasn't so much that so many are craven enough to click elsewhere, but that elsewhere is so low brow.

One would prefer to be bested by Paul Krugman or Robert Reich or Maureen Dowd.

One of my favorite professors in college, a Canadian author of short fiction whom the fickle goddess Pheme has so far undeservedly passed over, was fond of regaling the dozen of us in his short story seminar with a wide range of intensely memorable stories and vignettes from his life. It was, I suppose, a way of teaching us how to tell a story.

This included the one about the former student who, dropping by his office, declared that he was "into a new kind of reading." Intrigued, my prof asked what, assuming perhaps that the young man had discovered the then-hot Donald Barthelme. The answer, my prof said, amid gales of laughter that forced him to repeat himself so we could make out the words, was TV Guide.

Indeed, I later learned, when circulation and subscription figures became of professional interest, that TV Guide used to have tens of millions of readers and still garners 3.2 million. In contrast, Newsweek has a circulation of 2.7 million and the magazine I would have died to see my byline in, The New Yorker, only 164,000.

So, what's with that?


Joan19 said...

Is your TV Guide more akin to our Radio Times or to our ITV news? Both are primarily programming guides to what is scheduled to be shown or broadcast, with a few articles, snippets and readers offers for (eg) thermal boots or freesias. RT caters primarily to those who listen to radio or who watch non-commercial channels, the other to lovers of "soaps" and pop trivia.
I suppose each *could* be considered as a "literary genre" for purposes of academic study, as could other ephemera.

Anne said...

Exposure is the problem.

A few things:
My local newspaper might as well be called the Idiot Press. I imagine it is typical of most papers throughout the country, there isn't much to read in them, very little of national or international interest. Readers most distant to major city publications just don't know what they are missing.

Plus, a reader needs the luxury of unadulterated free time in order to read more than a five minute scan...which is how long my paper takes to read....max. TVs & radios and internet allows people to do tasks at the same time which a good paper doesn't.

If I, along with every other student had been given assignments and exposure to sources such as the NYT or the New Yorker & its regional equivalents we may all have been more intelligent.

Endangered good newspapers should figure out a way to sell bulk to every high-school & college student, and residence, a paper that is strictly news. Personally, I could care zip about all the cost that advertisments cover. A knuckle to knuckle Tiffany diamond ring? Who cares? I've cut and pasted all the news in the first section of the NYTs and have reduced it to a half dozen pages. I'm willing to pay for the _real_ cost of the paper and content. What a waste-paper they really are, we pay $1.5/day for pages of dump-filling debris.

Without innovation and inspiration folks will continue to be satisfied with less and skip writings such as yours.