03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

How Sex Could Save Newspapers

There’s been so much hand wringing about the future of
newspapers and most of it does little more than repeat an ominous warning of
the end of days that will come about when newspapers cease to be the thing they
are now.  So I was pleasantly
surprised to hear a question asked this weekend on On the Media which I don’t
hear nearly enough.  The question
they raised was not whether or not newspapers will survive, but if they should? 

Unsurprisingly, sex didn’t come up in this particular
segment, but it could have.  In at
least two ways, sex offers a lesson in the trouble newspapers and network
television find themselves in, and a clue as to how they might turn their
fortunes around.

Nowhere is the disconnect between mainstream news production
and the lives and experiences of those of us who consume it more apparent than
in content about sexuality.  New
outlets love an excuse to run sexual content because they know it attracts
readers.  But they have to keep it
superficial and ultimately judgmental because they live in fear of complaining
advertisers.  The result is content
that reflects back a stereotype and fails to connect with anyone’s lived

I’ve often complained about this, but it was brought home to
me again after giving up 15 minutes of my life I’ll never get back on a barely
readable article from Time Magazine about the greening of sex.  Wanna guess the headline?  It was Sex and the Eco-City.  Aren’t
there rules that a title of an article at least has to make sense?  Although once you read the article you
realize the title fits, since the piece is a bizarre collection of disconnected
points and surfaces barely scratched. 
It’s a keen idea, too bad the picture of sexuality it offers is hot off
the press releases real people’s experience of sex is nowhere to be seen.

Sex is important to people.  Very important. If and when media outlets start treating the
topic, and us, as one worthy of their, at times, considerable intelligence and
formidable journalistic and analytic skills, they may find an energized and
loyal audience is just waiting for them.

Of course the title of this blog post is a bit tongue in
cheek. I don’t think sex can save newspapers.  But I do think that if the print media was able to make the
kinds of changes needed to deal with sexuality in a way that would make sense
to their readers, they’d be making the kinds of changes they need to survive.