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August 03, 2012

Media Blacked Out Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day

Okay, in the post below, I was going to claim the media blacked it out, but I didn't know if that was true; for one thing, I don't watch the media, so I had no idea. For another, I saw a stray mention in a comment or on Twitter that it was being covered on some local broadcast. So I thought maybe they were covering it.

Nope. The major papers embargoed the actual news.

[Y]ou wouldn't know anything about the national phenomenon by reading the front pages of most of the country's leading newspapers. There's no mention of Chick-fil-A on the front pages of the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, and the Boston Globe. The front pages of USA Today, the Dallas Morning News, and the Houston Chronicle have small headlines about the restaurant, while Chick-fil-A's hometown paper, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, fits in a story below the fold under the heading, "Chick-fil-A Controversy." And the front pages of major news websites are quiet in their coverage as well.

Inside some of those papers, the coverage is still relatively scant. The L.A. Times has a news story, while the New York Times has an op-ed from the gay dean at the Georgia Tech business school encouraging Americans to let Chick-fil-A "fly free." The Washington Post ran a photograph, but no story.

It's a phenomenon we now know well, and yet it is still worth pointing out how astonishing this all is. Simply because we have become inured to a perfectly bizarre situation does not mean we should not make frequent note of how truly bizarre this situation is.

The situation is this: The last place -- not the first place, not the second, not the sixth -- you'd want to go to find coverage of news is an American newspaper or an American news broadcast.

They're not in the business of news any longer. The analogue that strikes me is, if you pardon this weird neologism (and pardon it because what I'm trying to describe is itself weird), news fashion.

See, I wouldn't expect a boutique fashion store to be catholic in the clothing it displays and sells. I'd expect it to be highly selective, skewing to the proprietor's own sense of style, his own insistence on what Good Taste consists of. I'd expect that in that fashion shop, what isn't available is as large a statement of principle than what is available.

And that is perfectly understandable for a tony, boutique, specific-taste fashion shop.

But this same mentality is bizarre when applied to the business of informing the public of the events of the day. The news media seem to be employing the fashionista's sense of style and taste -- the fashionista's overwrought, half-kidding concealing of her eyes and exclamation of "I do not see that!" when confronted with a dress not to her liking -- to the news.

The fashionista is right to "edit" the reality of her fashion shop to accord with her specific, idiosyncratic sense of the aesthetic. In doing so, she creates not only a brand identity for herself, but puts forth a manifesto, and aspiration, a declaration that "This is what the world should look like."

But a newsman? Is a newsman equally right to edit the reality of the daily record of the world's events so that it, too confirms with their sense of style, their aspiration as to what the world should look like?

I know the people lining up for Chick-fil-A on Wednesday were not the quite the clientele (I'm pronouncing that in as French a manner as I can) the media considers worthy. And yet, unless my eyes deceive, they do in fact exist and furthermore act in the tangible, real world we inhabit.

Fashion editing is expected in a fashion shop, but is reality editing acceptable in a newspaper? What is the purpose? To create, like the fashionista did, a small, heavily stylized and artificial world where a select clientele may visit, by invitation only? So that they may glimpse your manifesto of What Makes The World Pretty?

Addendum: Virginia Postrel has the pet idea that in a world with many consumer alternatives, most acceptable in terms of functionality, aesthetics will become the key differentiation, and consumers will gravitate towards products expressing their own concept of The Good.

And that's fine for consumer products. Smart phones, cars, shoes, computers, trash cans (you know there are high-end fashion-model trash cans right? what a world), and so forth.

But the news?

Is the news now an aesthetically-sculpted consumer product as well?

Forgot a Link: Hat-tip to Twitchy, with more.


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posted by Ace at 03:21 PM

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