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Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Course prepping made easy....

The recent "scare" (more of a media circus than anything else) in Boston involving guerrilla marketing of a cartoon movie is a wonderful example of two major trends in the mass media business coming home to roost.

I am now teaching a course on Mass Media and American Politics at UNH, and the episode in Boston could not have been better timed since I have been focusing on "challenges to mainstream media" (MSM) and was making the case that over the past decade or so MSM has been transformed by two emergent corporate cultures which I label "New News"and "No News".

The New News label I lifted directly from Marvin Kalb's 1998 work at the Shorenstein Center which was featured on two segments of PBS' NewsHour (here and here) just as the Monica Lewinsky scandal hit the airwaves (and Bill O'Reilley, an erstwhile student of Kalb's was settling into Fox News). Bottom line is that it was evident at that time that MSM -- the traditional or "legacy" media -- had given itself up to investigative tabloid-ism that we now consider commonplace. It was Paddy Chayefsky's "Network" scenario come true on a major scale and the entertainment divisions and ratings-driven norms took possession of all except the most dedicated of news sources.

The "No News" culture is the label I provided another MSM phenomenon that was effectively documented by Frontline and Nicholas Rushkoff in their "Merchants of Cool" broadcast in early 2001. While the relative indifference of younger generations to "news" and the preoccupation of teenagers and young adults with their "popular culture" is nothing new, the corporate fostering (and exploitation) of the "cool" market (through "coolhunting") has reached a level where it has become news itself.

The Cartoon Network episode is really just a clear manifestation of the resulting clash of these two cultures. Here you have Turner Broadcasting (owner of Cartoon Network), a major corporate MSM by any measure, generating the "No News" cultural event through its hiring of Interference, Inc. to conduct the Boston version of its guerrilla marketing campaign and then hyping the story of Boston's reaction on its CNN

What a wonderful set up for my Monday morning class as I played the 1998 NewsHour segment, followed by the first segment of the Merchants of Cool, followed by a wonderful discussion of the Boston events on Weekend America.

Oh, thank you Turner Broadcasting!

Tomorrow I am talking about the emergence of alternative media -- blogs, etc. As preparation I am sitting in front of my computer waiting for some interesting blunder -- I mean case study -- to fall in my lap.... broadcasts with its well honed "New News" machinery.

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