The below is a text of a first day lecture from a distinguished professor of broadcast journalism to college freshmen:
The foundation of all journalism is very simple. It comes down to one word but that one word is the bedrock of the profession. This single word is our call to action. It is our raison d’etre and it is the pillar upon which this noble profession has flourished. This word is our Excalibur! It is the sword in the stone. It is why we pursue the truth with relentless focus and determination. And, the word is:
‘Cuz if’n you ain’t pulling ratings then your sponsors will drop you like a bad bean pie at a Triple-Muslim convention. And, if’n you ain’t got no sponsors advertising on your little news show then you ain’t generating advertising revenue. And, if’n you ain’t generating no advertising revenue then, Chief, you got yourself a problem.
You see, folks, it’s like this. There ain’t but three kinds of journalists:
1) TV journalists
2) Radio journalists
3) Gone journalists
If you aren’t pulling good ratings then you about to become a gone journalist.
Means you gotta make sure your story falls into one of the five tiers of true journalism.
Tier 1 – Dead People:
“No Bodies, No Bylines.” First rule when you’re about to commit journalism. Don’t know who said it. William Randolph Hearst, maybe. Maybe it was Bill Cosby. Or, Eleanor Roosevelt. Who cares. Don’t know. Doesn’t matter. Fact checking not in the job description.
Hasn’t been for a long time.
One less thing.
You want numbers? Get dead people. Lots of ’em. A pile of dead people. Dead children are better. A big pile of dead children. Dead children next to a daycare center that exploded after a propane truck ran into it because the driver was killed by a suicidal terrorist and the propane poured down into a valley causing an entire community to go up in flames so people are running for their lives. Children running for their lives. Naked children running for their lives away from the fire until they fall off a 400 foot cliff and die due to global warming.
Don’t forget to use these time honored phrases:
- “Untimely murder”
- “Alleged suspect”
- “Terrible tragedy”
- “Details are sketchy”
- “Alcohol was a factor”
Grieving mother. Get a grieving mother in front of the camera. Any mother. Could be a mother from another county. Don’t care. Just get one. Tell her you wanna hear all about her despair. And, torment. And, pain. All of it. She thinking suicide? If so then how? If not then why?
Need politics, too. Ask her what she thinks all these dead kids mean for the Republican Party in the next election.
That kinda story will get you paid. Hell, you’ll get a Pulitzer Prize. Maybe two.
You think I’m kidding about the Pulitzer? I am not kidding about the Pulitzer.
Two words: Janet Cooke.
Good ol’ Janet worked at the Washington Post. Did a groundbreaking report about pre-teens in DC hooked on heroin. Poor kids. Dropping like flies. Major epidemic. She included a nice anecdote about a little 8 year old named Jimmy. Seemed little Jimmy was hitting the juice so hard that he practically had a syringe hanging out his arm 24 hours a day.
Did she make the whole thing up? Absolutely!
Did she get a Pulitzer? Absolutely!
Did it matter that this whole thing was total fiction? Absolutely not!
Tier 2 – Blood:
Remember the guy who said, “If it bleeds, it leads?” Me, neither. Doesn’t matter.
Guns. They’re the best. Get interviews with people who got shot. Ask them what they think about gun control.
Wars, earthquakes, riots, gang shootings, fires, natural disasters, anything. Don’t care. Doesn’t matter. The bloodier, the better. Political assassinations. Tortures are good if you can find any. A good prison riot can come in handy.
Definitely put you in the first five minutes of the national news way before the first Ex-Lax commercial.
Tier 3 – A Crisis of Epic Proportion:
We’re in the news business. We make the weather, okay? If you’re coming up short on a story then it’s time to make some news, you got it? And, it better be bad. Real bad. Nobody cares about what’s going right. Want good news? Go to church. Wanna know why there are only eight churches left in the country? Too much good news. No crisis. Bores Americans. You wanna keep getting paid for committing journalism? You, at least, want your story first in the second segment after the Ex-Lax commercials? Or, do you wanna be a gone journalist? Better get a good crisis going.
You gotta get a little creative on this one.
Happy to tell you, manufacturing a crisis is easy. Nothing to it. Teenagers do it every day. Take a little issue and blow it completely outta proportion.
Say you find four 6 year olds arguing about whether or not Santa Claus is real. Two kids say Santa Claus is real and two kids say ain’t no such thing. They’re yelling and screaming at each other.
You don’t have an argument. What you have here is a, “Conflict about to erupt into violent confrontations as young people take to the streets to blah, blah, blah.”
Find a couple idiots and do man/woman-on-the-street interviews.
The man should be one of those guys in a flannel shirt, big belt buckle, a “Schlitz Malt Liquor” baseball hat and has about eight pounds of chewing tobacco in his mouth so brown saliva is pouring down his chin.
You want the woman to have no fewer than 12 missing teeth, preferably wearing the same tube top she wore at age 9 and have a tattoo on her chest of the Waffle House logo.
Tier 4 – Sex:
Weird, perverted, sinister sex and a long trail of semen-stained evidence.
It’s gotta be strange. Maybe a Japanese orthodox rabbi and a Polish Hindu princess. In the Sistine Chapel. Under the Michaelangelo painting. During Lent. Having sex while the princess is repeatedly hitting the rabbi on the head with a Torah and the rabbi is feeding the princess bacon.
Just say an unnamed source saw the whole thing and that the rabbi would neither confirm nor deny it occurred. Mostly because you never asked the rabbi in the first place.
Americans love weird sex. Trust me. It’s stupid. I understand that. You can do “stupid” or you can do “unemployed.”
Oh, speaking of leaving a long trail of semen-stained evidence:
Eight years in office. Anyone remember the guy’s foreign policy, domestic policy, economic policy, military engagements, Supreme Court appointees?
When it comes to Clinton, people remember one thing and one thing only:
The intern under the desk.
They remember that part just fine. The rest? No clue. Don’t care. Boring.
Tier 5 – Toilet Paper Shortage:
Find a store that’s outta business. Have the camera guy pan across empty shelves. Say something like, “Once ordinary Americans could always count on toilet paper at this once thriving store. But, today, blah, blah, blah.”
Show some guy selling a roll of toilet paper at 2am in a parking lot behind the 7-11. Say something about ordinary Americans having to buy toilet paper in the black market.
Brown market, maybe.
Then interview the same two idiots and ask them how they feel about having to use dried leaves and pine cones instead of toilet paper.
Easy, right? Death, blood, crisis, sex and toilet paper.
Worse comes to worse, jump on TikTok for 30 minutes. Look for the 5 biggest trends going on, find the grossest one and do a segment about the devious ways TikTok is turning the minds of our youth into motor oil. TikTok is a goldmine! Wanna know a typical trend?
Not just any toilets. Toilets in public bathrooms.
You think I’m kidding about toilet licking? I am not kidding about toilet licking.
Millions of kids are licking toilets and getting sick as dogs because they saw idiots on TikTok do it. Now, why are they licking toilets? Because kids in this country are, let’s face it, imbeciles. Probably because the parents are too busy binge watching “Real Stupid Housewives of Fresno” to bother dealing with their kids so they gave the kids mobile phones and left the parenting to TikTok.
Of course the parents don’t notice their deviant little preteens are following all the TikTok trends and are running around with:
- Vodka-soaked tampons in their butts
- Vampire teeth they can’t remove because they superglued them to their real teeth
- Cereal they ate out of someone else’s mouth
- Condoms up their noses after having snorted them
- Brain damage from OD’ing on Benadryl
You think I’m kidding about these TikTok trends? I am not kidding about these TikTok trends.
Just remember to always blame TikTok even though you know and I know it’s because the kids are dipshits.
“Thanks to TikTok, future leaders of this great country are failing high school as they’re too busy licking toilets. Because of TikTok. And, nothing else. It’s all TikTok’s fault. Concerned parents, who share none of the blame whatsoever, have expressed their outrage by forming MALT (Mothers Against Licking Toilets) and blah blah blah.”
Next thing, if’n you are broadcasting the news then there’s a certain way you gotta talk, right? End every sentence with a preposition. Redundant phrases are required. Minimum of one cliché, one trite or redundant phrase, and one “situation” per sentence.
“A developing crisis situation has erupted into a plague of uneasy tension that completely surrounds this of working families where they’re pre-planning to self-evacuate from their homes that they live in. Informed sources, familiar with this situation, say authorities are closely monitoring the situation and will begin investigating alleged suspects in this developing situation while police gather evidence where this alleged crime took place at.”
Now, did you actually say anything in that last paragraph? No.
Did you make any sense at all? No.
Do people lap that crap up? Hell, yes.
See, you gotta know your audience and your audience is comprised of:
You’re dealing with morons because morons watch the news. These aren’t your standard-issue morons. These are a remarkable subset of morons. We’re talking about morons who are stupid enough to buy something, or vote for someone, based on a commercial.
Have you seen some of these commercials?
Seen the one with this monstrosity that was part dog, part monkey and part infant in a diaper jumping around with a can of Mountain Dew? Millions of morons drink Mountain Dew because of whatever the hell that was.
Tampons. Seen those commercials? The woman is miserable with her period and all. Until she buys these tampons and now she’s happy and dancing and rolling around on the beach with her boyfriend. Are these magic tampons? No. They’re tampons. But, people bought those tampons. Not just any people. Stupid people.
In summary, we reviewed the following foundational journalistic points today:
And, we discussed some elements of great journalism:
- Dead children
- Semen-stained evidence
- Toilet paper
- Toilet licking
Tonight’s assignment is for you to tell me what the hell that thing was on the Mountain Dew commercial.