Wednesday, December 3, 2008

"News is still big, it's the newspaper that got small"

According to Roger Ebert, newspapers are declining in quality and becoming less like "town criers" and more like "neighborhood gossip." Ebert believes the latest evidence of this trend came this week when the Associated Press imposed a 500-word limit on all entertainment interviews.

The word limit applies to all reviews, interviews, news stories, trend pieces and "thinkers," according to Ebert.

Apparently the AP wants its writers to focus on brief celebrity items such as "divorces, affairs, addiction, disease, success, failure, death watches, tirades, arrests, hissy fits, scandals, who has been 'seen with' somebody, who has been 'spotted with' somebody, and 'top ten' lists of the above."

Ebert believes "The CelebCult virus is eating our culture alive, and newspapers voluntarily expose themselves to it. It teaches shabby values to young people, festers unwholesome curiosity, violates privacy, and is indifferent to meaningful achievement. One of the TV celeb shows has announced it will cover the Obama family as 'a Hollywood story.' I want to smash something against a wall."

Essential this obsession with "celebrity culture is infantilizing us," according to Ebert. "We are being trained not to think. It is not about the disappearance of film critics. We are the canaries. It is about the death of an intelligent and curious, readership, interested in significant things and able to think critically. It is about the failure of our educational system. It is not about dumbing-down. It is about snuffing out."

"The news is still big. It's the newspapers that got small," Ebert added.

Source: Chicago Sun-Times via Poynter

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