how branding is ruining journalismadmin Post November 23 2011

Gene Weingarten: How branding is ruining journalism

Dear Leslie:

I am honored that you have chosen me as the subject of your journalism school graduate thesis. At the behest of your instructor, you e-mailed me to ask how I’ve “built my personal brand over the years.” I’m answering with this column.

The best way to build a brand is to take a three-foot length of malleable iron and get one end red-hot. Then, apply it vigorously to the buttocks of the instructor who gave you this question. You want a nice, meaty sizzle.

These are financially troubled times for our profession, Leslie — times that test our character — and it is disheartening to learn that journalism schools are responding to this challenge by urging their students to market themselves like Cheez Doodles.

I do see why it’s happening. The media is in a frantic, undignified campaign to economize while at the same time attracting more “eyeballs.” It’s a dangerous situation: Newspapers that used to allocate their resources to deposing dictators and ferreting out corruption are now using them to publish snapshots of their readers’ cats. This trend is called “user generated content,” or UGC. (Yes, in the new lexicon, “readers” have somehow become “users,” as though, in an effort to habituate people to our product, we’re lacing it with crack. Which we are, sort of. Pandering, and getting pandered to, can be addictive, and it is bad for you.)

June 23, 2011 Washington Post

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