Thursday, June 03, 2004

Watch for backfiring gimmicks

The Miami Herald offers one more example of a paper trying to attract younger readers but alienating them instead. A local weekly skewers:
Anybody who is truly in the know,
Says the flea market is the place you gotta go.
Liberty City is where I'm talking about,
Listen up now; I ain't gonna shout.

Those are just four of the 66 wince-worthy lines the Miami Herald printed last week about shopping at Flea Market USA in Miami-Dade's Liberty City. You know Liberty City. Lots of black people there. Black people rap. Makes sense to cover the flea market in jerky meter and lame rhyme, no?

I'm sure I won't be the first to say this, but juvenile rhymes no more appeal to fans of rap than they appeal to fans of Shakespeare. And if papers keep trying to lure young'ns in such I-have-no-idea-who-these-people-are ways, newspapers are doomed. There, I've said it.

At least the paper's top two editors, exec editor Tom Fiedler and ME Judy Miller, realized something was off.
When we appropriate the language of the group we are writing about, we run a high risk of offending some. What was intended as a positive piece on hip-hop, came across to some as a mocking parody, a gimmick that was short on substance.
However, even they miss one critical point: The author of that piece did not appropriate the language of the group she was writing about. It was a failed attempt. Had she succeeded, the piece wouldn't have been nearly so offensive.


At 9:56 AM, June 03, 2004, Blogger Mike said...

That Herald piece was painful to read. And it reminds me of the promo song from "227." Ugh.

At 11:40 AM, June 04, 2004, Blogger Nick said...

Stop the pandering! Newspapers are so stupid on this point.


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