As some of you may know by now, due to the largely arbitrary nature by which television network executives make programming decisions, 40-something veteran comedy writer and Harvard alum Conan O'Brien was relieved of his duties as host of The Tonight Show after only a seven-month tenure, with over $30 million as consolation for not achieving Johnny-Carson-like longevity in said post. His predecessor, Jay Leno, will reprise his role as host, and the relatively small, hipster community of comedy writers, actors, reps and the press folk who love them in New York and L.A. has gone into speculative overdrive regarding how long Jay will last, if Jay will continue to attract "A list" guests (and thus prime advertisers), and other minutia of non-fly-over-country concerns.
I know all of this because it has been unavoidable over the past few weeks, almost competing with Haiti news in various media.
Meanwhile, back in Reality, the national unemployment rate continues to rise while property prices continue to deflate, wiping out further billions in multi-decade-inflated homeowner equity. Global competition for commodities threaten to push energy prices sky-high again, and the Federal Reserve shows no ease in "goosing" the stock and bond markets via perpetual injections of liquidity, causing foreign creditors to panic further and Ben Bernanke to weigh the (rising) probability of his very own Conan-like demotion. Rising national poverty rates are starting to spread from urban and rural to suburban zip codes, and our leaders have gotten no closer to formulating a plausible national health care plan for mitigating some of the fiscal burdens weighing down on families and communities.
Despite the gravity of our nation's economic problems, the cosmopolitan business media continues to near-tactically distract the public with Jay/Conan deck-chair-shifting trivia, Brangelina's multimillion-dollar demerger, and the shrewd, Ovitzian demands for more money from the "cast" of hit reality show juggernaut, Jersey Shore.
Never mind that our continuing "recession" will most likely decimate advertising revenues and consumer discretionary spending well through 2012; many in our media and entertainment industries continue to obliviously act as if it's 1999. They see their increasingly commoditized and thickened down content, and the so-called reporting of that content, not as economic luxuries, but as necessities, even for a public starring down the barrel of 25%+ unemployment over the next 24 months (that would be the real rate of unemployment, including under-employment, not the padded BLS/CNBC/Wall Street Journal figures that are mentioned in-between other fluffed financial trends coverage).
For the trillionth time, wake up Corporate Media! You are increasingly irrelevant to the lives of Americans, who are psychically suffocating under the weight of your backslapping, self-congratulatory corporate-dictated trivia, which seeks to anesthetize rising collective discontent via the perpetual allure of candied Spectacle*.
Subsequently, those seeking information through "alternative" news sources are spreading beyond "the fringe," and can no longer be conveniently sidelined with labels. Policy wonks inside the Beltway regularly view Russia Today on air and online, as well as TrueSlant.com, Asia Times Online and other foreign press. Financial analysts and brokers "hedge," so to speak, their formally issued internal corporate guidance studies on financial trends with nervous after hours peaks at ZeroHedge.com, CalculatedRiskBlog.com, BaselineScenario.com and GATA.org.
Indeed, people seek information online via foreign press, blogs and fearless, seasoned forensic analysts - many of who've replaced flaccid, self-referential, trailing data regurgitating financial "journalists" - not for want of entertainment or shock value, but because viable information now matters directly for their weekly subsistence.
That doesn't mean that you should completely avoid parroting on the business section's front page about the college-quad-worthy gossip of which ϋber-wealthy comic titan has more "street cred" with the increasingly ossified TV networks or over at CAA. Please just consider relegating it to the back pages while focusing more on rigorous, explicit economic news, freed from the influences of government (read: the Federal Reserve, which essentially owns the economics profession) and Wall Street, however grim it may seem.
Do it for your own sakes as well, as you cannot hope to outpace the wider, non-elite public's conscience, which will increasingly qualify the most prudent form of optimism as an informed one.
Or don't. Who cares? Continue in your oblivion. Proceed with other brilliant ideas, such as charging users of your online content in this climate. Be my guest.
* With great respect and thanks to Chris Hedges for his seminal book of 2009, Empire of Allusion.