In these increasingly celebrity-driven, traffic-dependent, Oscar-buzz end-times, I’ve been thinking a lot about the way media coverage is operating, specifically on the web, where we all live and consume these days. It’s easy to see where the money is. Not to disparage my colleagues (The new Hollywood Reporter, The Wrap, The Playlist, Movieline, etc), but do a few stories re-posting/spinning news items that mention “The Dark Knight Rises,” “Superman,” Bristol Palin, and Lindsay Lohan porn movies, and voila, you have a hit story on the web; go ahead and watch your Alexa ranking soar and relax in the fact that you have perpetuated the worst of America’s mainstream middlebrow culture for the sake of your page views. (In writing “Lindsay Lohan porn,” I have just quadrupled the readership of this post.)
And with Oscar a-foot, there’s no shortage of studio ad dollars to chase with endless profiles of contenders and countless prognostications, and the thrill of the competitive race for a gold statuette that I have to remind myself every year, in case I get caught up in it myself, doesn’t reflect the year’s best movies, but frequently awards sanctimonious sap, politically simplistic cinema and just lame, mainstream movies.
The trick for us writers and the publications we write for is to write original content based on original reporting about the people, movies and trends that we care about–and not get sucked into the click-throughs rat race. Of course, it’s easy to say this when web-based models for advertising are rickety, at best, and we all need to eat and I’m as guilty as anyone in doing some of these pieces for a paycheck, but I think everyone needs to do a better job of raising the discourse and the ambitions of what we do and how we do it.
And if we must recycle gossip and cover the zeitgeist’s hot topics, let’s try to do so more like The New Yorker and less like E! Online.