Sunday, May 06, 2007

A mile wide and an inch deep

Sunday's package of stories on baby boomers illustrates what's wrong at the Enquirer. There are no fewer than nine stories on this subject today. The Enquirer writes about it as if it's something they discovered, and takes the approach, "this is who you are and this is what you want." The lead story almost totally descriptive, a rehash of old headlines. How stupid does the Enquirer think I am that they have to tell me Anthony Munoz and Johnny Bench are baby boomers?

The Enquirer seems to pride itself on this kind of swarming of a story, but the results are shallow. Last year the Cleveland Plain Dealer wrote a series -- not just one story -- on how boomers have failed to save for retirement, and they've won a handful of awards for it. Here, the Enquirer devotes less than 600 words to the topic. The Enquirer says we don't have enough geriatric doctors. The New Yorker treated that story this way. Read both, and decide which is the more compelling treatment. And does anyone really give a crap about what Nancy Zimpher thinks about retirement?

It's typical of how the Enquirer treats issues like this. They talk to college presidents and football coaches, but not often to the masses of people of average or below-average means who are really going to struggle with meeting their financial and health-care needs in retirement. That's where the story is, and today, the Enquirer dealt with it only as a bunch of statistics. Is it a lack of resources or a lack of courage that keeps the Enquirer from leaving the office to go find real people to talk to?

What the Enquirer should do is conceive the story the way they printed it, but don't print it. Expand the subjects where they've found impact, on housing, employment, retirement costs, health care and so on. But this is how the Enquirer covers an issue: a swarm, then silence. The swarm produces coverage that just scratches the surface of an issue. You can bet you won't read much about this in the future, because the Enquirer feels it's already been there, done that. The staff is too thin to assign a reporter full time to write about baby boomer issues, and the editors aren't smart enough to push the limits of the coverage.

For me, the best part was the 36 headshots of baby boomers on the Business front page, with the names in type so small and shrunken many baby boomers would need a powerful magnifying glass to read them.

UPDATE: The Sunday New York Times Magazine devoted its issue on Sunday to middle age. See it here this week. You might need to be registered, and if you aren't registered, you should be. This is what a newspaper with real ambition can produce.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for writing about this as you are dead on!

Plus, what's the deal with gutting the business section? Though, that's been dying a slow death for months. Maybe the publisher should run a going out of business sale for that section so people won't keep expecting more to return.

Thankfully, the Business Courier is big enough so the Enquirer can't buy it so she could gut that too.

7:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't you know? The business section was replaced by Moms.Com.

7:15 AM  
Anonymous Action News said...

Even the editorial page is getting McDonalds-ized. They're trying to cram in as many letters to the Editor as possible. My last three letters to the Enquirer were heavily edited ... not with any kind of political agenda, generally they'd just lop off the last paragraph or two.

7:24 AM  

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