Monday, July 18, 2005

It's Not How Many Column Inches, It's What You Do with It

Death to the culture beat writer! Not the writers themselves (I guess), but the position, since for the most part all they do is pretend something that has always been is now a trend, preferably one with some kind of recent cultural production as cache. What makes these articles so easy is you merely need a few colorful characters, juicy quotes and/or giggle-inducing anecdotes to write one. You'd think the AP handed out Mad-Libs for it.

The latest example is this "no, stop the presses" story, "Suddenly, It's Hip to Be Square." When you're stealing from Huey Lewis and the News from 15 years ago, you'd think that was a hint. But, no--people love Napoleon Dynamite! That's so dorky!! Somehow the writer (who shall remain nameless to leave her a tiny shred of her dignity) managed to mention orchestra geeks and not even work in Sarah Vowell, who's so hot right now she gets to fill in for Maureen Dowd--whose on leave finding a man, uh, finishing a book--at the New York Times in the same year she got to voice a superhero cartoon teen who can make herself invisible. Now that's what you call the Revenge of the Nerds, even without tossing in Vowell's latest book Assassination Vacation, where you get to learn more about Leon Czolgosz then there are consonants in his last name.

But I digress, which would be geeky if we didn't now have ADD drugs to clear that sort of thing up.

My favorite line in the piece is one of those "do you just type the quotes and not think about them when you do interviews?" moments. (Hey, cultural beat writer, here's a topic for you: Reporters who don't think about follow-ups--it's one crazy epidemic.) One self-professed nerd claims about his search for a nerdette: "It's like (the movie) 'American Pie' with the band geek girl. That is definitely part of the fantasy."

Look, the band geek girl was portrayed by the quite winsomely cute Alyson Hannigan. She's best known for playing Willow on Buffy, where again she was a nerd, but a very smart nerd, who just happens to be a witch, and a lesbian with an ex-werewolf boyfriend before she "turned." Speaking of turned, she was evil for part of season. Oh, and in American Pie as the "band geek" she played, cue Beavis & Butt-head for me, the flute. So you might just say holding her up as the epitome of female geek is a bit cynical. But as a marketer myself, I have to applaud this brilliant strategy of geek girl bait and switch.

I guess they call these kinds of articles soft news as they don't even achieve runaway bride status.

I have to go cry now.


Blogger Christy said...

I thought it was funny how the reporter glossed over Philip Kaplan, "founder of the startup online ad company AdBrite," with only a passing reference to "and also created a tongue-in-cheek Web site that chronicled the dot-com bust." I wonder if embracing his geekness has made him so popular, or if it's all the pornography.

3:42 PM  

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