Is The 'Jon And Kate Plus Eight' Story The Future Of Journalism?
Are you sick of Jon and Kate Gosselin? Probably. But that's not going to stop the media from writing about them. They apparently just discovered the story, and in a room in Minnesota, news types are wringing their hands over missing it for so long.
Andy Borowitz helped us step into Dimension X when he wrote (a satirical piece; update below) earlier this week about a University of Minnesota School of Journalism conference, in which some serious self-doubt commenced over whether or not media organizations have managing covering the Jon and Kate saga proficiently:
"You open the New York Times, and what do you see?" said Davis Logsdon, Dean of Minnesota's journalism school. "Kim Jong-Il, Sonia Sotomayor — but not a word about Jon and Kate."
Mr. Logsdon said that if the media continued to ignore important stories like Jon and Kate, "they will continue their slide into irrelevance."
His umbrella positioning and bizarre ass-backwards logic about why the media's becoming irrelevant aside, he's right: there are important issues to cover regarding this thing. Child labor laws - which the show is currently being investigated over - childrens' mental health care issues, the distinction of labor laws as they pertain to "reality" television programming, maybe even something on what it's like to insure eight kids, and how insurance companies view the parents and surrounding factors as variables and liabilities. Another one of the panel's attendees was thinking of something slightly different:
Tracy Klugian, who heads the Center for Reality Show Media Studies, said that the media are leaving major questions unanswered: "Is Jon really having a fling with the 23-year-old schoolteacher? And what about Kate and the bodyguard? The American people look to the media to investigate these issues, and the fact that they haven't done their job is a scandal."
Or, in other words: if we don't get on this Jon and Kate thing now, journalism's fucked!
Now, yes, this is just some assclown in a room saying assclownish things. But there're a few pretty frightening elements about this, chief among them being that (1) they're telling budding writers to pen Jon and Kate stories under the pretenses that the people need to know those things, which is ridiculous - if the New York Times should write about Jon and Kate, at the most craven level, it's because of the SEO traffic; and (2) this is an actual journalism school, teaching actual students how to go about working as actual, real (!) journalists. Everyone's getting hosed, whether it's the Nu Class themselves or the readers of whatever papers these kids get farmed out to.
Meanwhile, people other than supermarket tabloids (and us) are actually starting to write about Jon and Kate. The aforementioned story about the show being investigated for labor law violations is a start in the right direction, and the New York Post recently made some decent - if not, tabloid-flavored - attempts at putting together a coherent picture of the perks said "reality" stars are getting as well as devoting a recent wide-eyed 2,100 words to documenting the phenomenon (that manages to get the headline wrong and heartily begin with an H.L. Mencken quote).
Elsewhere, however: the New York Times' Gail Collins thinks the TV show is a bad idea, wow, the HuffPo has conspiracy theories, and Michael Wolff is off doing other batshit things, like comparing Jon and Kate Gosselin to Sonia Sotomayor, which I can't even begin to explain.
Insert any ideals about journalism you might have here: there's a story to be had, a real scoop, something that the public wants to know about Jon and Kate that we haven't been given yet. Maybe something that isn't a cross-section of an actual news organization and TMZ. Maybe that's why the Jon and Kate story really is important to the media: it's one giant test being taken in real time, that's going to dictate what's news and what isn't when it comes to the realm of celebrity. And people want the news, right?
Maybe. In the mean time, here's Jon shopping at Barney's. Here's the family on vacation. Here's a body-language expert talking about how sad Kate is. And here's the story about the show not going anywhere, anytime soon.
That's not the worst part: while the lifestyle, Kate's hair, and Jon's "job" might be fake, the kids are still real. And it will continue to look this ugly from every. Single. Angle for as long as this goes on.
Media Faulted for Lack of "Jon and Kate" Coverage [HuffPo]
Update: Commenters pointed out that I was fooled by the Huffington Post - looks like Borowitz is a comedy writer. Ha, even though I couldn't really tell, because it came up on my feed as news. Distinguish, goddamnit! Either way, he got me. But Borowitz, to his credit, wrote a piece of satire that could be read as news, which there's something to be said about (besides my inane research skills). The other examples cited here - Michael Wolff, Gail Collins, the Post, the Daily News, and the AP reports - are all real, so I'm sticking with this as a serious news cycle issue (and how mainstream media's going to treat it being a serious question). But, yup: Gawker Weekend Writer hosed, to hysterical, self-serious effect. Mea culpa.