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Last night, UNC had a guest speaker: Frank Deford, a well-known and
successful sportwriter and founder of The National, a national sports
paper which only lasted for 18 months.  Although he generally talked
about print journalism, he did describe how papers in particulare were
criticizing CBS for their coverage of the T-vs-K affair and pointed out
that this Olympics notable for being one of the most watched TV events
recently and that, as M. Kalfatovic (sorry if misspelled) wrote, drew
an abnormally large female viewing audience--especially for sports.
   Citing the trend that fewer and fewer people are reading newspapers--
and those who are, aren't new reader(average age of NYT reader is 48),
he advocated that the kind of writing the best sportswriting displays
often should be adapted to the rest of the paper.  Newspapers are dull
basically and he said that papers needed to keep it interesting to
maintain their market share and attract the minority of new, younger
readers who are "literate" and might become regular readers.
   Kurt Luedke, screenwriter for Out of Africa and former managing edit-
or of the Detroit Free Press, also said that if papers wanted to survive
they must pander/attract this "elite" rather than strive to please every
one (a la voice of the downtrodden blah blah)  I may be distorting what
he actually said though.  Luedke advocated the "gee-whiz" factor of
such stories as Lorena Bobbitt and I would suspect he might approve of
Olympic soap operas. (Luedke was a speaker last fall in same series.)
   But to avoid going into print journalism too much, Luedke said that
from his experiences in Hollywood and the press, that journalism is real
ly no more than a form of entertainment.  It competes with commercial
entertainment for the same limited leisure time market.
   I am currently just beginning to take some courses in journalism, and
I find that especially with daily papers/coverage there are certain con-
ventions and packaging formulae that allow papers to cover as much as
they do while at the same time achieving a certain level of impact.
One of the most innocent and widely used is the inverted pyramid where
you start with the most important information and trickle down to the
most trivial.
  With such "info-tainment" and "docu-tainment" shows as Cops or Unsolv-
ed Mysteries, what is happening to this traditional distinction between
(yellow, sensationalist) journalism and entertainment?  The sad fact
seems to be that "news" must be entertaining to some degree (which isn't
necessarily bad--60 Minutes is informative and engaging) but is this a
trend confirming Baudrillard's theory where things/events merely become
images divorced of any "meaning?"  And what does this mean for a future
of an "info superhighway" and the 500-channel culture?
   I believe Luedke was right when he said that news was always enter-
tainment.  I may read the paper but I definitely skip over stories in
the same way I might change the channel on TV.
   But my main concern is that: although we always complain about manip
ulative, cheesey, sensationalist journalism, papers are finding that
they must get off their constantly "objective" highhorse and show more
personality (even if in the form of Olympic soap operas).  We are none
theless attracted to the gloss and spin despite our tastes (or at least
the 90% a sportscaster Deford quoted who are not college-educated and
who "are dumb and getting dumber.")  Elitism no longer pays it seems, ev
en if it may have the "right" answer at times.  So what is to be done?
--Sterling Chen UNC-CH