Maybe we're becoming information snobs, but discerning net surfers are demanding updated and transparent content on any number of subjects. Is your site the source of political reporting? Slant the article unfairly and deal with the consequences of an unkind blogosphere. Looking to cover current events? Leave out critical facts and you'll risk being scooped by the likes of a tweet. And for celebrities deciding to get into the Twitter game? Don't get cute and have an assistant do it for you unless you are controlling at least some of the messaging. The followers aren't kind.
Now consider for a moment the new shape of a "television" viewer. (Hulu and YouTube, I'm looking in your general direction.) At a time when more people are going to the Internet for their viewing entertainment -- many of whom will blog and post about it afterward -- where do scripted reality shows fit in?
I call into exhibit a sampling of some of the alleged revelations that have recently hit the headlines and rocked the reality genre:
* MSNBC.com reported that Jon and Kate are not a hapless couple of eight children that just like to parent in front of a camera crew. Their shows are in fact based on pre-scripted scenarios that meet two specific criteria: entertain the audience and have a well-decorated/well-sponsored household.
* TMZ dished that Spencer Pratt left the reality show I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here in part because he was not provided a script. Wait...so The Hills is so scripted that a game show on a full set in the jungle for charity is just too much for him to bear?
* According to an AP story, not even the reality of a singing competition is sacred as AT&T employees did their part to skew the results of the final show by "assisting" certain Arkansas residents with their multiple votes for American Idol Kris Allen.
* And a blogger at Tree Climber's Coalition broke the story that MTV's Real World crew left behind a real mess after shooting on an island, including pages of the script littering the area. There's a hint of irony there if I could just put my finger on it...
Traditional scripted shows like The Office and Two and A Half Men still have a massive following and loosely scripted programming that is clearly slanted for "news-ertainment" like The Daily Show and The O'Reilly Factor are performing stronger than ever. Residing in the murky area are the shows that are marketed as unfiltered that later prove to be manufactured. It's the perceived attempt at a slight of hand that is receiving the most backlash.
So as more reality shows devolve into little more than amateurs practicing their improv skills and truly unscripted moments find their way to FaceBook walls in mass and on demand, will reality show writers soon find themselves out of work? (Yes, that's a real job and, yes, that should have been our first clue.) Or will it be enough to satisfy fans if these shows simply change their tagline to "Find out what happens when people stop being polite and start getting real-ish"?
Shawna Vercher is a web publicist and CEO of the web marketing company VTi-Web. You can witness her further fuse her pop culture obsession with her social media nerdiness by reading her work as a columnist or by seeing her in person as a professional speaker.