Media Makers on the State of Media

Here’s John Hockenberry, who worked for 9 years at Dateline NBC, on the current state of network journalism:

“You Don’t Understand Our Audience” What I learned about network television at Dateline NBC.

At the moment Zucker blew in and interrupted, I had been in Corvo’s office to propose a series of stories about al-Qaeda, which was just emerging as a suspect in the attacks. While well known in security circles and among journalists who tried to cover international Islamist movements, al-Qaeda as a terrorist organization and a story line was still obscure in the early days after September 11. It had occurred to me and a number of other journalists that a core mission of NBC News would now be to explain, even belatedly, the origins and significance of these organizations. But Zucker insisted that Dateline stay focused on the firefighters. The story of firefighters trapped in the crumbling towers, Zucker said, was the emotional center of this whole event. Corvo enthusiastically agreed. “Maybe,” said Zucker, “we ought to do a series of specials on firehouses where we just ride along with our cameras. Like the show Cops, only with firefighters.” He told Corvo he could make room in the prime-time lineup for firefighters, but then smiled at me and said, in effect, that he had no time for any subtitled interviews with jihadists raging about Palestine.

Here’s Nick Hornby interviewing David Simon, creator of The Wire:

““My Standard For Verisimilitude Is Simple And I Came To It When I Started To Write Prose Narrative: Fuck The Average Reader.”

That’s a good title, and the whole thing is decent, as per usual with David Simon interviews. The dude likes to talk. Nowadays about half the internet is David Simon interviews.

Which brings us back to Average Reader. Because the truth is you can’t write just for people living the event, if the market will not also follow. TV still being something of a mass medium, even with all the fractured cable universe now reducing audience size per channel. Well, here’s a secret that I learned with Homicide and have held to: if you write something that is so credible that the insider will stay with you, then the outsider will follow as well. Homicide, The Corner, The Wire, Generation Kill—these are travelogues of a kind, allowing Average Reader/Viewer to go where he otherwise would not. He loves being immersed in a new, confusing, and possibly dangerous world that he will never see. He likes not knowing every bit of vernacular or idiom. He likes being trusted to acquire information on his terms, to make connections, to take the journey with only his intelligence to guide him. Most smart people cannot watch most TV, because it has generally been a condescending medium, explaining everything immediately, offering no ambiguities, and using dialogue that simplifies and mitigates against the idiosyncratic ways in which people in different worlds actually communicate. It eventually requires that characters from different places talk the same way as the viewer. This, of course, sucks.

Also see this from The Atlantic for a dissenting view on Simon the person and the state of his almighty verisimilitude:

The Angriest Man In Television

Notice however that there isn’t a single claim in there that The Wire isn’t the best thing on tv. Not that I watch tv.

And finally here’s kindly David Lynch on the iPhone movie-viewing experience:

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