Columns

2013.03.06 It's a dull dose of reality

on . Posted in By The Way

By DAVID GREEN

I asked Mr. Google for an update on a proposal for a reality show based on a small-town newspaper, but nothing new is coming through. Perhaps it's still in the evaluation stage, which is where it should die.

A few weeks ago NBC Peacock Productions put out a casting call for a small-town newspaper to become the star of the series. I was surprised to learn that more than 70 newspapers responded. And then I was even more surprised to learn later that more than 150 responses were received. NBC executives claim they were "inundated by all types of pitches."

Some papers wanted to show the plight of struggling to exist in the new-normal economy. Others just wanted to show off their talents (building a fire on a deserted beach, perhaps, or eating more insects than the newspaper in the next town). They wanted viewers to know they do much more than attend city council meetings. True; they also sweep the floor occasionally.

The staff from a paper in North Carolina is so excited about the prospects of fame that they submitted links to their two YouTube videos: first, a "Call Me Maybe" parody followed by an updated version with "Gangnam Style" moves. 

There's no telling what "small-town paper" means to the producers at NBC. Probably the Jackson Citizen Patriot is a small-town paper. The entry from North Carolina lists 46 employees. Move that operation to Morenci and you become the third largest employer in town.

For the privilege of being used and embarrassed by NBC, the chosen newspaper receives nothing but abuse and embarrassment. A senior vice president for development at Peacock Productions had this to say about compensation: "The advertising rate for that newspaper would go through the roof." Only in the world of television, perhaps. That’s not the way it works in newspaperland.

NBC might actually produce a show based on a "small" newspaper, but they'll quickly learn that really boring television is on the horizon. One evening at a school board meeting will probably be about enough for the series. Then the camera can return to the newspaper office and watch the reporter write the story.

I, too, could send a link to a YouTube video to introduce myself and the office to NBC. I think I would go with "Too Much Fiber" on Vudley's Channel. They'll be interested in having a wacky personality among my large staff and I guess that would have to be Kim Ekins since she's the only other person in the office for most of the week. I hope she doesn't mind if I embellish the description of her personality a little. If NBC were to take the bait, we would have to work on her actual presentation a little before the camera arrived.

Think of the thrill of watching us talk on the phone or taking a classified ad from a customer. 

The closest we could come to providing the thrill of a reality show with a little sniping between staff members would come on Tuesday afternoon when we're already 20 minutes late and I still have a sports story to write and Kim has gone home and a customer walks in to renew a subscription (people think about that on Tuesdays) and my wife notices that the border of an ad is slightly off the page so a new PDF of the ad needs to be made and updated on the page and then a new PDF of the page must be made and the phone is ringing and we're now 30 minutes late and grateful that the press room at our printer hasn't said, "We're going home. Try again in the morning." But how many times could you watch that same routine before NBC's ad rates begin to fall through the floor?

Actually, the most exciting thing to happen at the Observer in a long time was the arrival of Fayette's Tiger Cubs last weekend. I gave the popular Heavy Metal Tour that involves a paper cutter, printing press, foot punch, etc.

This year each Tiger had the chance to ride the wheel on top of the paper cutter. Point the TV camera on the face of each mother as her son climbed the chair to the cutter to the wheel. I was afraid to look.

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