Misconceiving the Mainstream Media

When things that are just under the cultural radar get covered in the “mainstream media” – like a doctor using Twitter during surgery (CNN), the uproar over the new Facebook terms of service (MSNBC), or the “25 random things” meme (NYTimes) – reactions tend to range from “Oh wow, they covered this thing I like” to “Yeah, what took them so long to catch on?”

Both of these reactions are misguided. Having worked in mainstream media for many years, I can tell you that there’s no concerted effort to cover certain things, or hold off on covering things. The “media” is made up of individual people who have a lot of space to fill, whether in print, on TV or online.

Sure, some of their stories are pitched by publicists, and some news is so important it demands to be covered. But the rest of the space is going to be filled with content about things that individual writers or editors are interested in. And these things will be covered at the time when the person happens to find out about them. That might be 6 months after you’ve already gotten sick of it, but to that journalist it’s new. 

Plus, once a subculture has been covered by some mainstream news outlets, it becomes legitimate fodder for everyone else. Here’s a meta-article on NBC LA about coverage of the “25 things” meme: 25 Things Articles Arriving as Fast as 25 Things Lists.

All I’m saying is that people should neither be insulted nor impressed when their pet activity is covered in the mainstream media. It just means that the right person discovered your niche at the right moment, and there was space to fill on the page. Enjoy the moment, but keep it in perspective.

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